The TV adaptation of David Peace's cult noir novels feature a stellar cast of celebrated actors including Sean Bean, Paddy Considine, Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey and Maxine Peake, the three feature-length films are set in Yorkshire during the 1970s and 80s - a time of paranoia, mistrust, corruption and the terrifying legacy of the Ripper murders.
As seen on Channel 4, this is a shocking and controversial landmark drama that British TV has been waiting for, based on horrific, factual events and adapted for the screen by Tony Grisoni (Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Tideland) from David Peace's series of groundbreaking novels. The Red Riding Trilogy follows compelling stories revolving around the manhunt for the brutal Yorkshire Ripper and the tragic, harrowing effects he has on a terrorised community living in fear.
After a failed attempt to crack Fleet Street a cynical journalist returns to his homeland of Yorkshire and finds himself assigned to report on the case of a local girl who has gone missing. But after her bizarrely mutilated body is discovered he is thrown into a sleaze infested, nightmarish world of corruption. As the killer's identity remains a mystery, savage events spiral out of control, spanning generations and leading to a shocking climax.
Compelling, complex, gripping and genuinely disturbing, The Red Riding Trilogy is a breathtaking, neo-noir epic. Spread across three films (1974, 1980 and 1983) by three different accomplished directors (Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker) it features a cast of some of Britain's finest acting talent including Paddy Considine (Dead Man's Shoes), Sean Bean (Lord Of The Rings) and Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon).
Part 2 on 12/03,Part 3 on 19/03
The Times review:
The first episode of Red Riding may have announced itself as taking place “In the year of our Lord, 1974”, but its doffing of cap to godliness was fleeting and surely sly. Tony Grisoni's amazing adaptation of David Peace's quartet of novels is unremittingly bleak, its canvas distinctly ungodly.
The only thing to conclude at the end of two hours of torture, grey multi-storeys, beatings, torture, child disappearances and moral corruption was that it really is grim up North. Red Riding knocked the stuffing out of you, then, smiling viciously, set it alight. It was astonishing, unbearable, tough, and beautifully written and mounted. Julian Jarrold's direction couldn't have been further from the lush canvas of his big-screen Brideshead of last year. All that grandeur was vaporised. Here the palette was grey, fawn, scrubby clouds, scored skin, starkly lit basements, derelict streets. Everything was a permanent winter of discontent and horribly beautiful to watch.
Andrew Garfield's Edward Dunford had returned to Yorkshire, the young Turk journalist out for his exclusive: the disappearances of some young girls. His friend Barry warned him darkly of police “death squads”, which he laughed off: his friend was paranoid, he supposed. At the start, Garfield was the typical hungry reporter: glib, ruthless, dismissive of authority, wanting the glory. But his cockiness was no match for the mass of primordial slime gathering around him.
Barry was probably right about the death squads and was beheaded while driving in his car. It was unbearable to watch Garfield - who must surely be nominated for gongs, as must the drama - become aware of the hideous spider's web of inescapable criminality and corruption all around him. He finally knew what right and wrong was - too late. The police were rotten. The puppetmaster, the local criminal big cheese John Dawson (Sean Bean in black poloneck with thugs at heel for menace), controlled everything, as his mad wife muttered darkly of bodies under carpets. Bean snarled at Garfield that the country was at war with itself: the Government had lost it, the “Pakis, wogs and poofs, even the bloody women, trying to turn back the tide”.
The horrific knot of Red Riding was the notion that there was no escape for Garfield, no chance for justice to be done, or to reveal the scale of the corruption around him. His growing sense of powerlessness was pungent: he went from a journalist trying to get a story to a man trying to stay alive. Garfield is an actor who resides in tics and grimaces and Dunford was a rattish hero, hard to really like until it became apparent that he was the best thing in the benighted world of Dawson and his cohorts.
There was one glint of light. Janette, the mother of one of the missing girls, fell for Dunford. He imagined a life away from the mess around them: “They've got sunshine down South.” But cometh the hour, she wasn't there. She had been killed. He was being framed for her murder and then tortured almost beyond endurance by the police and by Bean's henchmen (whatever the difference was). Then, into a grey day, he was thrown, brutalised, from a van.
Numb, Garfield returned to kill Bean and his bullies and then in a final frame, seemed to drive suicidally at a police convoy in pursuit: the screen shattered on his fatalistic face. The cock of the walk had become a wounded, compromised victim. They may have sunshine down South, but it seemed unlikely that he was going to see it soon.
Some have said that this series is too bleak, but Grisoni has remained faithful to Peace's tone. If he had successfully made the unadaptable adaptable, then Jarrold had made the unwatchable watchable. You felt every crack on bone and smelled every overflowing ashtray. The second episode will take us to 1980, and the backdrop of the Yorkshire Ripper murders and investigation, so really if you thought this was tough, it was just the aperitif for worse horrors to come.