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A stunning reinvention of the possibilities of the police drama
on 20 June 2017
Blu-ray details: this is a very cinematically shot series and the images contained on these discs do full justice to the gorgeous photography, with close ups revealing a wealth of character detail and the sweeping helicopter shots showing off the eerie landscape. The sound design, while being mostly just talking, is sharp and well placed.
True Detective, it will come as no surprise, is a detective story about a murder investigation with occult overtones. The story is told in a dual narrative, with the events unfolding at the time of the crime in Louisiana in 1995, while in parallel, the case is being reinvestigated by two new detectives in 2012. These parallel storylines are masterfully handled: at no time is the viewer confused as to which time period they are watching and the ageing of the actors is incredibly well-handled, through effective but not excessive makeup effects.
So the story itself is engaging but what really elevates True Detective, is the quality of the writing and the acting - like so much of the new golden age of long-form drama that started with The West Wing and HBO's prison drama Oz in the mid 1990s, it is not really what happens but how it happens that impresses. The standard of acting is just fantastic, with even the smallest character seeming a fully realised, rounded, individual and lead characters Matthew McConaughey (building on his recent, fantastic body of work in films like Interstellar) and Woody Harrelson (his best work since Natural Born Killers) deliver career-best performances: selfless, unshowy, detailed and wholly believable.
True Detective was created and written by Nic Pizzolatto and his writing, here, is so rich and full of character, with the intellectual sparring between the two detectives being dramatic, credible, sometimes funny, sometimes intense. Again, minor characters are also fully-realised and given room to live and breathe.
Occasionally, a book, film or television series comes along that reinvents the genre. I wasn't sure that was possible with police dramas after the studious brilliance of the police procedural, The Wire, which analysed the War on Drugs as seen through the eyes of its soldiers, generals and politicians (and later it's educators and media) on both sides. In just eight brilliant episodes, Nic Pizzolatto and cast and crew have taken a decades-old genre and turned it on its head, opening up and exposing a whole other world of previously untapped possibilities. Unreservedly recommended.