Sunday, February 7, 2010

Movie with Abe: Red Riding Trilogy

Red Riding: 1974 (Directed by Julian Jarrold)
Red Riding: 1980 (Directed by James Marsh)
Red Riding: 1983 (Directed by Anand Tucker)
Released February 5, 2010

Trilogies are a tricky thing, because being too reliant on previous or subsequent entries can weaken a film if done improperly. Often, all the best parts of a series are saved for the final film, and those preceding it have little to offer except for to build anticipation for its eventual release. The “Red Riding” trilogy, releasing as one road show triple-feature, is a positive example of a trilogy where all of its components are of relatively equal good quality. Additionally, if taken apart, the first film could be screened and that could be satisfactory, and it could be followed by just the second and that could be satisfactory. It wouldn’t quite be possible, however, to watch only the second or especially the third film without seeing the first, but that’s what makes the films as a cohesive trilogy experience that much stronger.

Each of the “Red Riding” films centers around the West Yorkshire police department, finding its officers embroiled in a devastatingly brutal crime wave. Each film has a different lead character, a journalist in 1974, an investigator in 1980, and a lawyer in 1983, but features the same revolving supporting cast, whose importance increases as its assorted members pop up in each successive film. The concept of one man trying valiantly to ensure that justice is served and operate despite the overwhelming dominance of corruption in the West Yorkshire police department is extremely interesting, and becomes even more compelling as more information is gleaned and exposed from film to film.

The incorporation of the same supporting characters creates an incentive to keep going and follow along with the trilogy’s stories, despite the fact that they are brutally dark and disturbing due to the violent and graphic nature of their content. The trilogy does a great job of crafting a narrative, and by film three the corrupt acts of the police are hardly unexpected and even seem almost choreographed. The presence of certain characters is extraordinarily well-handled because some go unnoticed until they have an important part to play, and their involvement comes as even more of a shocking surprise.

Each of the three films is quite different from the others. Three talented directors with very different visions guide the stories – Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane), James Marsh (Man on Wire), and Anand Tucker (Shopgirl) – enabling each of the chapters to take on a unique life of its own. A different talented British actor heads up each film – Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), Paddy Considine (In America), and Mark Addy (The Full Monty) – and helps to establish a specific, distinct tone for each film. Taken apart, the second film is probably the strongest, but it’s astonishing to see how the films build off of each other, and especially how the third film so extensively delves into the mysteries and questions prompted by the first two. The six hours of guns, kidnapping, torture, and intrigue are certainly dark and dreary, but these films are very well-made and the resolution offered by the final installment should hardly be a disappointment to anyone who’s been sitting through the entire experience.


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