|Barmaid with a secret – Grace|
who has returned home damaged by his war experiences. He assumes control of the family’s crime empire of illegal bookmaking and protection, bypassing his elder brother Arthur and family matriarch Aunt Polly, who ran things during the war. After Tommy takes charge of machine-guns stolen from the local BSA factory, the city is targeted by the government – and Winston Churchill – who fear the weapons may be used in an uprising, such is the level of post-war unrest. The brutal Chief Inspector Campbell (a menacing performance by Sam Neill) is summoned from Belfast to find the guns at all costs. The rivalries (particularly with gambling crime boss Billy Kimber), the lust (Tommy is lured by Irish spy Grace Burgess) and the family tensions (Tommy’s sister becomes pregnant by his one-time best friend) are played out well against the unforgettable recreation of industrial Birmingham, with its foundaries and soot and street braziers. The accents wobble, but Cillian Murphy is charismatic as Tommy, Helen McCrory has authority as Polly and Annabelle Wallis is intriguing as the beautiful but steely Grace. The cinematography is luscious, offering a vision of the period that isn’t twee window-dressing, but which instead reveals a genuine fascination for the political turmoil and social mores of a Birmingham largely forgotten (how refreshing to see Britain’s second biggest city in the spotlight). This is ambitious drama-making that is seen too seldom on play-it-safe British TV. A second season is in the pipeline for 2014.