The one to watch: Wallander (BBC1 / Kenneth Branagh)


UPDATED: Review of Faceless Killers here.

Early last year the BBC aired three film length episodes of Swedish crime drama Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh as Swedish detective Kurt Wallander. It was very, very good as I said at the time. And this said from someone who rarely watches crime drama.

The cinematography was especially good and I really enjoyed the very dark plot lines. In short, it was ‘must watch’ TV for me.

So I’m very pleased to see that the BBC have made 3 more feature length episodes, the first of which starts tonight on BBC1 at 9pm.


Sunday 03 January
9:00pm – 10:30pmBBC1

1/3 – Faceless Killers

Wheat fields wave in the breeze, a frenzied stallion gallops down a dark road and an unhappy Swedish detective stares bleary-eyed into the bleak middle distance, his soul lost in torment. Yes, it could only be Ingmar Bergman meets Midsomer Murders – Wallander. After a brief, Bafta-winning series last year, Kurt Wallander (a mesmerising Kenneth Branagh) returns, still dishevelled, unshaven and a little grubby, in another polished adaptation of a Henning Mankell story. In Faceless Killers, Wallander is called to a remote farmhouse where an elderly couple have been tortured and murdered. With her dying breath the woman whispers a word loaded with significance; if it gets out, it could have fearful repercussions for Sweden’s delicate race relations. As tensions simmer, Wallander has personal matters to attend to. His ailing father (brilliant David Warner) is in the grip of dementia and needs constant care, and Wallander’s wet daughter has a new boyfriend he’s not keen on. It’s gripping stuff, even though Wallander’s constant striving to invest every single frame of film with significance can be distracting.

Radio Times reviewer – Alison Graham

Source: Radio Times

More info on the BBC website.

Review: Wallander (Episode 1 – Sidetracked – BBC1)

I am not, as a rule, a fan of crime dramas – but this was good.

It is a very dark Scandinavian thriller and felt – probably because it was set in Sweden – quite unlike the multitude of British equivalents. It’s based on the crime thriller by Swedish author Henning Mankell.

The storyline was dark, opening with detective Kurt Wallander (played by Kenneth Branagh) approaching a young and terrified woman in a rape field. She pours petrol over herself and sets herself on fire.

The main plot involves a series of murders – the victims being ‘scalped’. Very dark stuff as a web of prostitution, child abuse and government and police corruption are revealed.

The best bit was the cinematography itself – it had that vivid 1970s Fujifilm feel to it. Very intense colour rendition which really did add something – the blues and greens especially. Also, it’s set in southern Sweden (though it’s in English) and all the signs and visual text are in Swedish. That alone made it feel very different to a standard UK crime thriller.

Sweden just feels… quite different to the UK. Having been there myself for the first time earlier this year (to a conference) – it does having something about it I can’t quite put my finger on. I’d like to go back, for sure. There is a starkness about it (a bit like Scotland) that does pull you in.

Most of all this reminded me of the movie Se7en which was very dark and haunting – and which I always found gripping.

I’ll certainly be watching again next week. Decent 1.5 hour chunk of TV for a Saturday evening (there are three in total).

A good review of it on Times Online. More about Mankell, the author, also on Times.

Overview of Wallander on the BBC

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