Wallander [DVD] 
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Kenneth Branagh plays Swedish detective Kurt Wallander in three new detective dramas based on the best-selling books by Henning Mankell - an international publishing phenomenon with over 25 million copies sold worldwide. Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Behind follow Inspector Kurt Wallander – a disillusioned everyman – as he struggles against a rising tide of violence in the apparently sleepy backwaters in and around Ystad in beautiful Southern Sweden. Baffling crimes and seemingly motiveless murders are investigated by Wallander leading to surprising and shocking discoveries in these compelling films.Extras: 'Who is Kurt Wallander?' 'Branagh’s Wallander' 'The Wallander Look' Branagh and Mankell Interview Audio Description Audio Navigation Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Sarah Smart, Sadie Shimmin, Tom Beard, Tom Hiddleston, Richard McCabe, David Warner, and Jeany Spark
Giving a rare and welcome television leading role to Kenneth Branagh, Wallander is a Swedish detective who is brought to the screen in three 90 minute adventures. Based on the hugely popular novels by Henning Mankell, each of these is then collected together in this DVD set.
Branagh takes the title role, and he’s Wallander’s leading asset. His performance here is grumpy, downbeat and deliberately stuck, and he skillfully underplays his role. It’s a terrific performance from a very strong actor. Around him, mysterious and shocking crimes are taking place, and it’s his job to get to the bottom of them. He’s aided by a good, if unspectacular, supporting cast, although nods must go to Sarah Smart and Tom Hiddleston.
Filmed on location in Sweden, yet still more British in feel than you’d perhaps expect, Wallander nonetheless is intelligent, and at best gripping drama. It’s well made, too, with some stylish directional choices that may isolate some viewers, but do enhance the production. There’s clearly been a lot of thought and planning involved here, and it does pay dividends.
That said, Wallander is likely to be a divisive programme. It eschews quite a few of the conventions of the genre, instead playing things more downbeat than we’ve perhaps become accustomed to. Naturally, this is also what strengthens the programme. And, combined with Branagh in excellent form, there’s enough here to warrant further investigation. For at its best, Wallander is both brilliant, and a little bit different, and it’s very much worth checking out. --Jon Foster
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To say the BBC Wallanders were 'not Swedish enough' seems a bit ridiculous. This is an English production. Going for more 'Swedish' might involve original language etc, also Henning Mankell - clearly - was going for an international appeal in the books; read 'The Man Who Smiled.'
Secondly castigating the adaptors for the outlandish plots while absolving the original books just doesn't work. Mankell's books are great on portraying Wallander - compelling car crash of a man - and existential gloom; plot-wise, often, weak. Firewall is particularly far-fetched and, naturally, the TV adaptation suffers as a result.
However Inspector Morse - mostly - had downright stupid plots; that doesn't mean to say it wasn't gripping TV and the Wallander's here aspire towards that standard. The production values are high and even in quite spare ninety minute films, the directors are allowed the odd establishing, swooping shots to lift this out of studio-bound cop fare.
The real reason to watch these is Kenneth Branagh. He is pitch perfect as the shambolic, troubled cop. He exudes charisma while making Mankell's depressive creation 'live.' The fact is Branagh is one of the best British actors aroun as he has shown in a variety of roles - Shackleton, Heydrich in 'Conspiracy', that dark arts teacher in the second Harry Potter. Luvvie nonsense aside, he can really act. The Wallander series - that rare beast, quality contemporary BBC drama - showcases that.
I thought Kenneth Brannagh's face - older, worn, tired - was perfectly in tune with the tone of the whole. Brannagh's detective wanders wearily through his life and the crimes he helps resolve. The force of his charisma is centred on his eyes, which stare out bleakly on a world rendered bleak by the circumstances of his life and the way he sees it. The setting is a town in Sweden; the characters are Swedish - but for our purposes they speak English. I'm glad - it allows for a large cast of really excellent British actors to be at their best without dodgy accents or the distraction of subtitles.
I take other reviewers' points that this Sweden may not be quite, altogether 'Swedish', and that the books are different in tone. I haven't read them and came to this 'Wallander' without expectations or preconceptions, which is probably best. Perhaps the storylines are a tad contrived - but I enjoyed each episode as a thing in its own right - the studied look and feel of the place, the fact that nothing ever quite goes right for Wallander; I'd highly recommend this as a superior sort of detective drama along the lines of (but better than) 'Silent Witness' and somehow channelling the excellent French series 'Engrenages' (`Spiral').
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