Sunday, 1 November 2009

Gallic dread: French thriller Spiral spins tension to the last scene

DRAMATICALLY, tightly written, stuffed full of emotionally complex characters and a plot which literally left me chewing my fingers to the very last scene, Spiral II came to its (appropriate) dénouement on Sunday evening on BBC4.
Previewed on Gobshite's previously, it again showed every producer of every crime TV programme and movie how to do it - with the exception of perhaps the heads over at HBO.
While the plot kept things going to the last possible minute, the key to Spiral is that you give a monumental fig for the characters you love - literally (as much as you can fictionally) love, because of how real they are written.
And this is the key to Spiral, every one of the main characters has such emotional depth, such a range of political and social motivations for their, at times, compromised behaviour, that it makes for utterly compelling viewing.
From the debonair and ambitious prosecutor Pierre Clément (Grégory Fitoussi) feeding story tips to Le Monde because he fears being blind alleyed in the poorest department of French justice, to corrupt lawyer Szabo knowingly playing for the biggest drug dealers in les banlieus, everyone has a secret or an atavistic urge towards self preservation in a society compromised.
They can't do anything about changing the moral decay of society, they are just doing their moral and/ or financial best out of it.
The most realised creation of the two series is Joséphine Karlsson (played by the luscious Audrey Fleurot), a beautiful red headed lawyer forced into the underworld by connection with Szabo. She (un)willingly takes the coin of brutal drug lords, the Lurbis, because of her love of money, the high life and designer clothes.
(These clothes, (un)helpfully, envelop a body that even Mrs GM never ceases to remark upon has, wonderful breasts. But that's à propos of nothing).
Starting with the find of a charred body in a car which eventually takes in a huge drugs surveillance in southern Spain and ultimately to the quest to find an undercover officer missing presumed dead, in eight episodes Spiral leaves you breathless.
Will Samy the undercover officer who has stolen the heart of emotionally fragile CID chief Laure (Caroline Proust) survive? Will Azziz the brutal rapper/ record producer/ drug dealer/ murderer get brought to justice?
At each juncture Spiral leaves you hanging, begging, grasping for a bone to keep you going. Me and Mrs GM contemplated ducking out the back for a minute because the tension was unbearable. It was like Denis Taylor v Steve Davis all over again for (Northern Irish) me.
Compulsive drama which portrays people in their starkest most compromised light, doing the best they can amid a sea of corruption, neglect and moral ambiguity, Spiral, like The Wire, says more about society than a million well meaning government-sponsored academic studies on the effects of drugs.
The best thing it is all here on the iPlayer for those of you who are licence fee payers.
Authentik, mec!

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