A beautifully filmed opening episode to the Swedish detective’s final BBC series
★★★½ BBC1, starts the week beginning Saturday, 21 May
THIS IS the fourth and final series of Kenneth Branagh films based on Henning Mankell’s best-selling novels.
When this sequence of 90-minute, English-language instalments began eight years ago, the Swedish author was still alive.
Mankell, who sadly died in late 2015 aged just 67, had chosen Branagh to portray the rather downbeat detective back in 2007, after the likes of Trevor Eve, Neil Pearson, Jason Isaacs, David Morrissey, Clive Owen and Michael Gambon were being talked up. The character had already been depicted in two fine native serial adaptations by Rolf Lassgård and Krister Henriksson.
Each of the performers is different. Lassgård’s Wallander is bearlike and a little forbidding, Henriksson’s serious but sympathetic, while Branagh’s is probably the most approachable.
The White Lioness
The White Lioness launches this final BBC outing for the sleuth, to be followed by A Lesson in Love and The Troubled Man.
The opener takes Wallander out of Sweden as he attends a policing convention in South Africa. While preparing his address on ‘Making a Difference’ to delegates, a task he is struggling with, he is distracted by the opportunity to get involved in the case of a wife of a Swedish man who has disappeared.
The episode is filmed in South Africa and the photography around Cape Town and the farmland scenes is stunning and beautiful. Great use is made of the setting, with particularly good sequence when Wallander goes into a township looking for a witness and ends up in a deadly chase.
Henning Mankell’s masterly creation
What the story, whose theme is political assassination, lacks is any personal glimpse at Wallander. He is very much going through the motions as an investigator here, but we never get close to the man.
This will certainly change with ensuing episodes. The Troubled Man was Mankell’s final Wallander novel and sees the detective confronting the realisation that he is losing his memory.
Kenneth Branagh says: ‘I always approach each series of Wallander with anticipation and excitement, but this last series of films contain some of the greatest challenges the character has ever faced. It’s a privilege to try to meet them, and I look forward to a great Swedish autumn working on Henning Mankell’s masterly creation.’
It’s been an absorbing journey, and Branagh has certainly left his mark on the character, picking up a Bafta for his performance along the way.