The Night of, Sky Atlantic

The Night of

Light touch – the cops spot Naz

Taut, detailed and gripping account of a young New Yorker accused of murder

★★★★ HBO in the US, Sky Atlantic in the UK, coming in September

THE PREMISE is nothing to write home about. Young guy on a night out ends up being accused of a murder he may or may not have committed. 

What makes HBO’s new series so compelling is that it is superbly written and acted, and very tense. It’s created by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price, which is a formidable team, with Zaillian having won an Oscar for his Schindler’s List screenplay and Price being a superb novelist (Clockers, Lush Life) who’s also written for The Wire.

Price has done the teleplay for the extended opening episode of The Night of, in which we meet Nasir Khan, a young guy who ventures into Manhattan from Jackson Heights in Queens to go to a party. Naz comes from a Pakistani community in the neighbourhood and his parents are not happy about his going.

Without his father’s permission, Naz borrows his dad’s taxi to get there. However, he gets lost and keeps being flagged down by would-be fares because he doesn’t know how to turn off the for-hire light.

Riz Ahmed as Nasir

The night takes an unforeseen turn when a young woman jumps into the yellow cab and asks to be taken to the beach. The woman is beautiful and says cryptically that she can’t be alone on this night. Naz – played with great appeal by Riz Ahmed – is somewhat innocent and gobsmacked by her.

His muslim background also ensures that he does not take drugs or drink alcohol, but before the night is done he has indulged in both back at her Upper West Side apartment, along with having sex with her.

In time-honoured fashion, when Naz comes to he discovers that the young woman has been stabbed horribly to death. Having done as much as possible to incriminate himself, he eventually crosses paths with a police patrol.

It’s a tense watch as the guileless Naz slowly collides with the callous justice machine, the cynical cops, brutalised arrestees and hard-bitten detectives. He’s going to be mincemeat – all because he wanted to go to a party and meet girls.

John Turturro as Jack Stone

About an hour in, we have the drama’s star turn as John Turturro shambles into the precinct as Jack Stone, down-at-heel jailhouse lawyer on the lookout for clients. He recognises a lamb to the slaughter when he sees one and foists himself on Naz, who desperately needs an ally. First bit of advice: don’t say anything to the cops (he already has).

The role of Stone was originally to be played by James Gandolfini, and, following his death, by Robert De Niro. Both would have been superb, but Turturro still sets an already fizzing story alight when he appears.

Richard Price is renowned for doing his research, and here it is the details that bring Naz’s predicament to life. The bickering between the station sergeant and the forensics guys, the lazy detectives trying to get out of attending the murder and so on. All of which makes Naz’s nightmare seem more haphazard and cruel.

The Night of, an eight-parter, is based on a 2008 BBC series from writer Peter Moffat called Criminal Justice, which was also very good and starred Maxine Peake and Ben Whishaw.

However, the new version is a terrific reinterpretation and should become one of 2016’s outstanding crime series.

The Tunnel: Sabotage, Sky Atlantic

The Tunnel - Series II

The pressure is on: Karl and Elise

Clémence Poésy and Stephen Dillane are reunited for more cross-border intrigue in Sky Atlantic’s big-action thriller

★★★½ Sky Atlantic, Tuesday, 5 April, 9pm

TUNNEL VISION returns to Sky Atlantic with another punchy, explosive instalment of the series inspired by The Bridge.

The Tunnel 2

Evil-doers: The gang of three

The world has changed a lot for Elise. A year on from the events of the last series, she is now the boss of her unit, and having to do managerial courses to learn how to deal with people in her charge. She also has a boyfriend, the waiter she met in series one.

Meanwhile, Karl has had a tough year, moving on to a new job in the police, struggling to cope with events from the past.

Clémence Poésy and Stephen Dillane

The action – and there’s quite a bit of it – kicks off when a couple are abducted from a Euro Star carriage, leaving their traumatised daughter behind. The wife is a French government cyber security chief, he’s big in software.

French investigator Elise Wassermann (Clémence Poésy) and British detective Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) are reunited to tackle the vicious gang of terrorists responsible. However, before they can even pierce the daughter’s terrified silence, a passenger plane crashes in the Channel.

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The Last Panthers, Sky Atlantic, Samantha Morton

Tahar Rahim as Khalil

Panther hunter – Tahar Rahim as Khalil

A gritty, riveting Euro-drama with a blockbuster cast and superb writing, direction and production 

★★★★½ Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 12 November, 9pm

WHILE we Brits prepare for the referendum to decide whether to go it alone outside of the EU, Sky Atlantic has embraced the Continent with this bold and ambitious Euro co-production.

It’s a big, complex tale about the real-life Pink Panthers gang of jewel thieves, the Balkan-based network of ex-servicemen and criminals who carried audacious and spectacular gem raids throughout Europe. At the same time, it offers a glimpse of the pan-European crime scene and the fallout from the breakdowns of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

It’s also a far more sophisticated drama than mainstream whodunits of the sort set around Oxford and Midsomer. And finally, with a terrific script and direction, knockout cast and title music from David Bowie, it must be the best series Sky has ever made.

The Pink Panthers hit Marseille

First, the story. Episode one kicks off with a heart-pounding heist in a marble-clad jewellery store in Marseille. This is being carried out by members of the spectacularly successful gang dubbed the Pink Panthers by the media.

The Last Panthers, Sky Atlantic

Samantha Morton as Naomi

However, as Milan Novak (Goran Bogdan) and his team flee the scene, the robbery goes badly wrong and an innocent girl is shot dead. English insurance company loss adjustor Naomi (Samantha Morton) is ordered to Belgrade, where the gang has its base, by her boss Tom (John Hurt) to recover the gems.

While her involvement annoys French detective Khalil (Tahar Rahim), Naomi’s return to the Balkans revives bad memories of her time in the military when she served there on behalf of the UN during the mid-90s conflict.

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David Bowie writes title track for The Last Panthers

David Bowie The Last Panters

David Bowie has written the title music for The Last Panthers, his first such soundtrack contribution for 20 years

Samantha Morton in Sky Atlantic's The Last Panthers

Samantha Morton as Naomi in The Last Panthers

Wowie Bowie! The man himself has written and recorded the title music for Sky Atlantic’s big new thriller six-parter The Last Panthers. Starring Samantha Morton and John Hurt this is a trans-Euro production about banksters and heists. Director Johan Renck says: ‘I was looking for one of the icons of my youth to write the music for the title sequence, but was presented with a God. His first response was precise, engaged and curious. The piece of music he laid before us embodied every aspect of our characters and the series itself – dark, brooding, beautiful and sentimental (in the best possible incarnation of this word). All along, the man inspired and intrigued me and as the process passed, I was overwhelmed with his generosity. I still can’t fathom what actually happened…’

 

Major new crime dramas for autumn

The Last Panthers, Hand of God, Narcos, Lucky Man, The Five

THE SETTING at the exclusive top-floor club of London’s Gherkin was swanky enough to impress to the shady ‘banksters’ featured in Sky Atlantic‘s ambitious new Euro-thriller The Last Panthers.IMG_0844

The channel had taken over the glass eyrie with its mesmerising views of the capital, pictured right, to treat journalists from Britain and France to a glimpse of the work in progress. TV critics from The Times, The Guardian and Heat, along with CrimeTimePreview, mingled with Sky’s MD of Content Gary Davey before viewing selected scenes from the multi-lingual crime drama, starring Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and John Hurt.

The dinner event and wonderful location were a sign that Sky Atlantic has high hopes for this sophisticated series. It’s a partnership production between Sky Atlantic, Canal + and Sky Deutschland and is filmed in London, Marseille, Belgrade and Montenegro.

The story is based on an idea by French journalist Jerome Pierrat, an expert on Europe-wide crime. It is inspired by the Pink Panthers, Interpol’s name for a real gang of Serbs and Montenegrins, several of them former soldiers, who performed audacious jewel heists, targeting several countries.IMG_0841

The drama begins with a tense jewel robbery, but the story also shifts the narrative back to 1995 and traces the roots of the gang. It looks like a big, sweeping thriller. Samantha Morton glams down for the role of the loss adjustor sent to Balkans, while John Hurt is the seasoned honcho who’s her boss. In English, French and Serbian, The Last Panthers looks to have a lot more going on in it than your average episode of Lewis.

It’s scheduled for November…

Moving on, just take a look at this new series coming from Amazon Prime on 4 September. Hand of God! starring Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman, fresh from Sons of Anarchy, looks just a little unhinged. He’s playing a bent judge in a bind who seems to think he’s  been chosen by God himself to seek vengeance. It’s certainly off-kilter enough to be worth a gander.

Netflix also has a major new crime drama streaming soon. Narcos is a big show telling the story of US and Colombian efforts during the 1980s to take on the mega-powerful Medellin drug cartel. The trailer makes what is a complex and bloody story look like a rollicking good action series, but trailers can be misleading. It will be interesting to see if Netflix can do this huge story justice.

Finally, Sky1 also has two intriguing series looming. Lucky Man stars James Nesbitt in a high-concept series created by comic-book legend Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk etc). Nesbitt plays a cop from London’s Murder Squad who is given an ancient bracelet that gives him the ability to control luck. This has an attractive cast, including Eve Best, Sienna Guillory and Darren Boyd, and what could be a fascinating premise.

Co-creator Neil Biswas says: ‘Is the bracelet really bringing him luck, or is it just another manifestation of the gambling addiction that has always plagued him?’

There is also a lot of buzz around The Five, bestselling thriller author Harlan Coben‘s first original story for TV. Created by Coben, writer of novels such as Tell No One and Gone for Good, and scripted by Bafta-winner Danny Brocklehurst, this 10-parter follows a group of friends haunted by a terrible incident in their childhood. It stars Tom Cullen, O-T Fagbenle, Lee Ingleby and Geraldine James.

True Detective 2, Sky Atlantic, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams

They’re mean, have unhealthy addictions and they’re scary – and that’s just the cops in the all-new True Detective

True Detective, Series 2, Sky Atlantic Key Art

True Detective, Series 2, Sky Atlantic

★★Sky Atlantic, starts Monday, 22 June, 9pm

SO, AS EXPECTED, it’s all change in True Detective. No more Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey or director Cary Joji Fukunaga framing his unsettling bayou backwaters.

Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto is back, however, and the big question for anyone who was transfixed and disturbed by series one is, how will the wholly made-over crime drama match-up?

The first episode is complex, introducing many new faces in a rush. We have Colin Farrell as cop-on-edge Ray Velcoro, who is in debt to criminal Frank Semyon, played by Vince Vaughn.

Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch

Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a dedicated detective with screwed-up personal life. And the cop triumvirate is completed by Taylor Kitsch as highway patrolman Paul Woodrugh, whose problems range from erectile dysfunction to a suicidal motorcycling habit.

Oh, and Brit actress Kelly Reilly turns up as Frank Semyon’s wife, Jordan, no doubt relieved to have escaped ITV’s rather dull Above Suspicion.

The clever shifting time frames of series one are also gone, no doubt because so many characters need an overall linear storyline. This time it hangs on the construction of a new rail line and the incumbent corruption that goes with it.

A town called Vinci

IMAGES CLEARED FOR PRESS, PRINT AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Colin Farrell as Velcoro

The gothic mood of series one is replaced by Californian sprawl centred on an ugly place called Vinci, an industrial hell of cement mixers and factories, the biggest polluter in the state. As one character says, ‘What the fuck is Vinci?’ To which Ray Velcoro replies, ‘City, supposedly.’

You could probably devote the whole series to Velcoro, Bezzerides or Woodrugh, such is the airport-carousel of baggage each one is carrying. We first encounter Velcoro, who, naturally, is separated from his wife, as he tries to cheer his chubby son outside the school gates. When he later learns that the boy has been bullied, the fallout for the bully and his father at the hands of the flaky cop is chilling to behold.

As Velcoro sees it, ‘Sometimes a beating promotes personal growth.’

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Fortitude, Sky Atlantic, Sofie Grabol, Michael Gambon, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Eccleston PREVIEW

Sky Atlantic’s much-anticipated new crime series is a slow thaw, but it has a great cast and a terrific setting


Stanley Tucci as DCI Eugene Morton; Sophie Grabol as Hildur Odegard; Christopher Eccleston as Professor Charlie Stoddart in fortitude
In cold blood – murder comes to Fortitude, with Stanley Tucci, Sofie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston. Pics: Sky

Rating: ★★★½

Sky Atlantic: starts Thursday, 29 January, 9pm

Story: In the close-knit community of Fortitude in the Arctic Circle, a murder touches everyone and the unsettling horror of the crime threatens the future of the town itself.

AN AVALANCHE of hype has accompanied Sky’s Arctic thriller. At a rumoured £25million it has cost more than the entire budget of the Sky Arts channel, apparently. It’s meant to pitch Sky Atlantic into the HBO league of major drama creators. It’s the network’s most ambitious series ever etc etc.

Richard Dormer as Dan Anderssen in Fortitude
Sheriff Dan doesn’t think the town is big enough for him and Morton

With a terrific international roster of actors including Stanley Tucci, Sofie Grabol, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Dormer and Sienna Guillory, it certainly grabs the attention. And devotees of recent dark mysteries such as The Killing and Broadchurch will also be intrigued by an unusual 11-parter set in an almost surreal frozen setting.

But, on viewing it, how does Fortitude measure up? I thought it got off to a slightly bewildering start.

Sofie Grabol is Fortitude’s governor

Michael Gambon as Henry Tyson in Fortitude
Wildlife photographer Henry makes a horrid discovery

The opening feature-length episode is stunningly set in an Icelandic town, but it hurriedly throws so many characters and storylines at you that the first hour leaves you a bit, well, cold.

It begins with Michael Gambon’s Henry stumbling on a savage scene on the seafront, which is immediately disconcerting. Then a young lad is stricken with a mystery illness and is left by his father, who’s having illicit sex with a hotel receptionist.

Meanwhile, the discovery of a mammoth’s remains by two chancers threatens the plans of the governor, Hildur (The Killing‘s Sofie Grabol), to redevelop Fortitude.

We also meet the town’s odd but charming PCs Ingrid and Petra, and new arrival Vincent (played by Luke Treadaway), who’s here to help Professor Stoddart (Christopher Eccleston).

Stanley Tucci as DCI Morton

There’s more, but the blizzard of plotlines comes to a halt when a grisly murder is discovered, and the town with no crime is abruptly revealed to actually harbour very dark undercurrents.

Mia Jexen as PC Ingrid; Alexandra Moen as PC Petra in Fortitude
Ingrid and Petra

It is when Stanley Tucci’s character, DCI Eugene Morton, arrives from London that the drama gels and we get our bearings (though how an American with FBI credentials happens to be working for London’s Metropolitan Police is again confusing).

Morton is confronted by the antagonistic sheriff (Richard Dormer), which sets up the juicy prospect of a running battle between the pair.

After what is a messy opening episode, Fortitude could well develop into a sharp and intriguing drama. Created by Simon Donald, who wrote C4’s gritty crime series Low Winter Sun, it is certainly original, with a savage but beautiful setting.

Continued…

Sofie Grabol shows her versatility by throwing off her strutting detective Sarah Lund from The Killing to play an under-pressure politician with an agenda. Tucci is very watchable as the outsider poking his nose in, and there are certainly enough murky goings-on to keep viewers guessing.

Luke Treadaway as Vincent Rattre; Sienna Guillory as Natalie Yelburton in Fortitude
Newcomer Vincent (Luke Treadaway) meets Natalie (Sienna Guillory)

I’ve seen it compared to Twin Peaks, which is misleading. But Fortitude is in the rich vein of contemporary dark crime series full of compromised heroes.

Sky will be anxious that it snowballs into a bigger hit than its previously acclaimed series The Take (2009) and Mad Dogs (2011), but, while refreshingly bold, it doesn’t put them in the same league as HBO and True Detective just yet.

Cast: Richard Dormer Sheriff Dan Anderssen, Stanley Tucci DCI Eugene Morton, Michael Gambon Henry Tyson, Sofie Grabol Governor Hildur Odegard, Christopher Eccleston Professor Charlie Stoddart, Luke Treadaway Vincent Rattrey, Jessica Raine Jules Sutter, Nicholas Pinnock Frank Sutter, Johnny Harris Ronnie Morgan, Veronica Echegui Elena Ledesma, Sienna Guillory Natalie Yelburton, Darren Boyd Markus Huseklepp, Mia Jexen PC Ingrid, Alexandra Moen PC Petra, Darwin Brokenbro Liam Sutter, Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips Carrie Morgan, Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson Eric Odegard, Chipo Chung Trish Stoddart, Phoebe Nicholls Doctor Allerdyce

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Fortitude, January 2015 – sneak peek

SKY ATLANTIC’S starry new thriller Fortitude is set to hit the small screen in January. Its international cast includes Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston, Sofie Grabol, Richard Dormer and Luke Treadaway. Set in an isolated town in the Arctic Circle, and filmed in Iceland and the UK, the series is a 12-parter and will be one of the biggest productions on Sky next year. The story will follow how the small community is shattered by a rare violent crime, the mysterious horror of which threatens Fortitude’s future… Anyway, here’s a brief taster.

Stanley Tucci, Sofie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston

Michael Gambon; Richard Dormer

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