Crime thriller

Breathe [Web Series Review]

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Rating: 5/5

To what extent will a father go to save the life of his son??

That’s what Breathe is all about. Before I jump into why I absolutely loved this show, I need to first breathe a sigh of relief. Indian Television, even if it’s only web series now, is not all gone down the mud. Hats off to Amazon Prime India and Abundantia Entertainment for putting this amazing production together. 

Star power does help. With the likes of Madhavan and Amit Sadh, Breathe got the much needed attention. But it effectively proved that it’s not all about star power. At the end, it’s about the writing, screenplay, directing, music and all other technical aspects which makes a show stand out. Breathe scores in almost every category. 

Denzil Mascarenhas aka Danny (Madhavan) is a fun loving man- a successful football coach and a wonderful single father to 6 year old, Josh. Josh is suffering from a lung disorder (to put it in simple words) and need a transplantation to survive, a deadline of 6 months to save the little boy. Josh is currently at 4th place in the AB negative donor receiver list. Danny is desperate to save his son and realizes he needs to take matters into his own hands. He has to do something to push Josh up the list and get the much valuable organs. What can he do? In order to secure the organs, the organ donors have to die….right? And that’s what Danny plans to do. Does he succeed in saving his son? Can he live with his actions?

Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh) is a guilt ridden, drunkard policeman, still unable to come to terms with the accidental death of his daughter, causing him his marriage subsequently. When he realizes his wife, Ria, might be a possible target in a series of killings (By whom? Have a guess?), he and his subordinate, Prakash, gets down to investigate. Slowly connecting the dots and identifying it’s all about organ donors, Kabir’s intuition gets him to Danny. He is sure Danny has something to do with all the deaths. But does he have proof? Does Kabir solve the case and end Danny’s mission? Or does he understand Danny, as a father, and support him? 

I just loved this ethical dilemma. Even till the end, I couldn’t figure out if Danny was right or wrong. He was right as a father but that didn’t justify his actions of killing innocent people, right? It also brought into light the significant need for organ donation, and all the issues that comes along. The writer did a fantastic job with a proper ending which kind off puts everything into perspective. The perfect ending I must say. 

Sequences to highlight. The asthma attack sequence was so thrilling that my breath was caught up for a moment, I swear. Those were the portions you are confused if Danny should succeed or not. The sequence of the bike accident when that young man dies, that was the moment when I felt a tinge uncomfortable with Danny’s mission. The suicide sequence, nice touch to begin the show with that, was scary. Kabir showed what policeman’s intuition is, how he could directly sense something was off with Danny and WOW he was so right. Loved the last revelation bit, wouldn’t give away much here. I wasn’t entirely convinced the need for Danny’s neighbor woman at the tattoo parlor. Seemed unnecessary. Also- Dr Aruna was so quickly forgotten. 

Astounding performances by both Madhavan and Amit Sadh. Madhavan is such a versatile actor who hasn’t really got the right roles to bring out his mountain of talent. He as Danny showed all kinds of emotions, with such perfection. Loved the scenes where he is traumatised by the murders he had committed, his beautiful scenes with Josh, the determination and fire in his eyes- Honestly, I didn’t know he could act so well. He just lit up the screen. Magnificent! Amit Sadh, to be honest I remember him only in Kai Po Che. Didn’t watch any of his other works. But he as Kabir, what an outstanding performance. Very powerful. His nightmare scenes were so impressive. Ably supported by all the other actors. Actors playing Josh, Danny’s mother, Prakash- all brought so much life to their characters. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, every aspect of the production scored well. Loved the title track. It was creepy and well suited the show’s concept. The background music, settings especially the police offices, the cinematography in the murder scenes were top notch. The dialogues were crisp and relevant. 

When I lost hope in Indian Television ever reviving itself, this show comes along. It’s sad that such shows don’t make it to the television, hence reaching many more people, but it’s a start and a very good startI wish GECs free up a slot from their usual meaningless melodramatic shows, to broadcast shows like Breathe.



Next of Kin [2018] [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 2/5

Number of episodes: 6

If I have to describe the feeling when high expectations and thrill sags into extreme disappointment and boredom, this series would be the best reference. Starting off as an intense thriller, a very predictable story and characters left me just wanting the series to end.

Next of Kin follows a Pakistani family settled in London. Mona Harcourt, a successful GP, lives with her husband- Guy Harcourt, son- Sammy and her mother- Mrs Shirani in London. Their lives crash down when Mona’s brother Kareem is brutally killed by unknown terrorist group in Pakistan, the same day when a terrorist bomb attack occurs in London. You feel so sad for the family who have been preparing to celebrate Kareem’s return home. Their plight to retrieve Kareem’s body from Pakistan amidst political and legal hitches, riveting sequences. Then we have Kareem’s son- Danny, who goes missing and the police instantly connects him to the attack and a hunt begins. Mona tries to pull her family together in this grief stricken moment, protect them from conspiracy and betrayal, putting her life and her family’s at risk in the process.

Everything is so convenient. Mona’s character, whom you actually like in the first 2 episodes, becomes so irritating and utterly unconvincing. What started off as a strong character just ended up being helpless and her bizarre decisions and actions just only make things worse. I understand and I don’t expect characters to be perfect, but at least some sensible action from someone is required to retain the sanity of the show. Mona getting shot, getting imprisoned, getting kidnapped- it’s all too much. There are so many family members, and the writer strives hard to give some importance to each one of them through unnecessary story lines, that your attention gets wavered off the plot. Honestly, I don’t think so many characters were needed in the first place. The investigation team or task force or whatever you call is a complete mess. They try to portray the tension and pressure behind every operation but by that time you just lose interest in almost every bit of the plot. I don’t want to start on their shooting aim. Danny is forced to go undercover and provide details about attacks planned. You don’t connect to the seriousness of the situation at all. The pace of the show doesn’t help matters either. No explanation on Danny’s creepy expressions till the end. I took a moment to think- What exactly is the plot of the show? Is it about stopping the terrorist attacks? Is it Mona’s plight to save her family? Is it about Danny? Without a clear purpose, the show fails to impress at the end.

The actors did their best to emote their characters. Was good to see Shabana Azmi on screen but her character didn’t have much to do. Archie Punjabi and Jack Davenport did their best to keep the show together. Fine performances from the supporting cast as well.

Next of Kin started off very promisingly. But messy writing in the 2nd half makes this show easily forgettable.

Bosch [Season 1 Review]

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Rating: 2.5/5

Network: Amazon Original

Episodes: 10

There have been numerous TV series with the leading character in the title- Inspector George Gently, Inspector Lewis, Morse, Rebus- and mostly every one of those shows were based on novels. Bosch isn’t any different. Created by author Michael Connelly, the novels and the TV series follow the life of Detective Harry Bosch. An Amazon Original, this series scores high in certain areas and fails poorly in others. 

Just like most of the main TV cop leads, Harry Bosch is a middle-aged, serious, no-smile guy. Investigated for a shooting/encounter, all eyes are on his every move. When the owner of a dog calls to report finding human bones in the woods, Bosch and his team begin their investigation. The bones belong to a 12 year old boy (Arthur Delacroix) who went missing 20 years ago. A group of suspects is lined up, including Arthur’s father and the timeline is established for the cold case. On the other hand, patrol sidelines a truck for a search and finds a dead body. The truck owner- Raynard Waits is arrested and questioned. The story takes a shocking turn when Waits confesses to murdering Arthur and many others whom he has hidden in the woods. He later escapes from police custody and commits more murders. It becomes a game for him between him and Bosch. But why Bosch? What’s the connection between them? 

The cases are one of the most interesting, thrilling and grittiest cases I have ever seen. They are perfectly set in the first 4 episodes. But then happens the fall. The next 4 episodes practically has nothing to offer to the story. Yes, Waits murders more people and speaks to Bosch over the phone, challenging him. We get to see Bosch’s family and his equation with his ex-wife and daughter. There is internal politics, competition for promotion, elections and lot more. But with such a brilliant case hovering helplessly over the head, its impossible to focus on the rest of the things. 

Titus Welliver, as Harry Bosch, makes things even worse. I haven’t seen any of his works before but he just makes Bosch so dull and boring. He is so wooden in his dialogue delivery. Don’t get me started on his weird white bracelet (May be some backstory there? I don’t know) I understand the character is meant to be serious but still the actor could bring some life to the character. As a viewer, I didn’t feel for Bosch at any point of time. I didn’t route for him, or had confidence in him, that he would solve the case. I missed energy in the character. I didn’t care what happened to Bosch and that’s epic failure on the actor’s part. Hopefully, he does something different in the other seasons. 

Coming back to the case, I loved the profiler’s angle to the case, some historical significance to the name “Raynard Waits” and digging up Arthur’s past. The connection between the cases was well established. I wondered why no one recorded Bosch and Waits’ conversations? I mean- no outside perspective on that? As much as both the cases ended convincingly with no open ends, it didn’t end on a high note. It was a complete fizzle at the end. 

I don’t know if I would watch the rest of the series- 2 more seasons have aired- but I did love the cases. So may be I might give another season a try. Fingers crossed.

Gently in the New Age [Finale] (TV Show Review)

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Rating: 5/5

Fitting, satisfying but a depressing end to an absolute marvel!

Inspector George Gently has always been one of those series which I just can’t stop admiring. I don’t know if it’s because of the 1960s setting, or the blending of the then relevant social issues with intriguing crime cases, or the brilliantly picturesque setting or the fantastically amazing cast- it’s just very difficult to pick one reason. 8 series- 10 years! That’s a journey to applaud. When it was announced that this series would be the final one, I was in a way happy because ultimately the show would get a fitting closure and Wow! What a closure!

Before I get to the part which eventually turned this usual finale into an extraordinary one, a little about the case. It’s the 1970s now. We have two cases running in parallel, connected by one person, Michael Clemens, an ambitious politician and a potential winner for the next PM. George Gently, after successfully proving corruption within the police system, is approached to look into the murder investigation of Leslie, a case involving Clemens in some way. On the other side, a undercover reporter is murdered publicly at a union protest, the reporter who laid his hands on a proof concerning Clemens. John Bachchus and Rachel Coles run the latter investigation while Gently takes the cold case. We also catch a glimpse of the state of politics then and the government cover ups. But what’s interesting and better than the actual case is how every character reacts to the case.

George Gently! This show has always been about him more than the cases. An honest man with extreme integrity, at the verge of retirement after the assassination of his beloved wife Isabella, he moved down from London to lead a quiet life, to cope with his pain and loss. This finale portrays how George never really overcame his grief and come to terms with his loss. He had distracted himself with work and nurturing his protege John Bachchus, but with the changing world and his inability to adapt to it, it results in absolute frustration and opens the door of helplessness and loneliness for him. The friction between him and John doesn’t help him either. In a way, George feels like an outcast unable to compromise with his principles or accept the harsh corrupt world. At the end, the season finale ends with George finding closure over his wife’s death.

The first half hour of the episode, I felt the story was going nowhere. It didn’t feel like it was a finale. But the next 1 hour! Mind blowing! Seeing George struggle with his emotions was agonizing, especially his call to Rachel in the middle of the night and the subsequent breakdown. I was surprised how George called Rachel and not John. That scene was so endearing. It was the first and the last time we see George so vulnerable. I absolutely admired how George wasn’t ready to give up his integrity even though he was about to retire in a week. That’s Gently for you! We never got many scenes of George thinking about Isabella over the series, may be a few here and there. This episode showed how much George missed Isabella and how he just can’t live without her or how every day has been a struggle for him. Another strong point of this episode was how it was and is highly difficult for an honest cop to work in the real world. The last scene between John and Rachel showed George’s success- creating two potential and capable police officers.

A little disappointing was the very few interactions between George and John. They have been through their ups and downs over the years and in the previous episode we saw a huge clash between them. I expected them to mend their relationship or something that would mean they were at a better place. I wasn’t sure at the end if George and John were Ok. I mean, they would have definitely been, courtesy to the lovely friendship and bonding they share, but- I wish there was one scene to show their strong bonding, to show what each meant to the other.

Coming to the performances. This episode, hands down, belonged to Martin Shaw. What an actor and performer! Shaw portrayed Gently’s frustration and pain so well, it just hit me. He effortlessly lets the viewers into Gently’s personal and vulnerable side. Even though the rest of the cast and supporting cast did a great job, they didn’t have much to do in my view. It was all Gently throughout, which I actually felt was the right way to go. Kudos!

I’ll miss George Gently a lot but I am really happy that the show got a wonderful ending, which many series doesn’t get. This show had one of the best story narrations and the pace of every episode was almost equal to perfect. Appreciation to every one of those involved in the process of making this amazing series. George Gently will always hold a special palace in my heart.

Top of the Lake (2013) [TV Series Review]

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Rating: 2/5

Number of episodes: 6


Mounting expectation and then huge disappointment! That’s how Top of the Lake was. Recently, Season 2 of this series, which I am yet to watch, was aired and has gathered very great reviews. I, being someone who goes by the order, decided to watch Season 1 first before moving to Season 2. Now I am not sure if I will watch Season 2.

Top of the Lake has been a show on my watchlist for very long. I never got around watching it until now. It’s one of those shows which is painted in gloominess, both in setting and emotions. There has been a lot of shows which are based on child abuse. This show is one among them. I wouldn’t say the writers were insensitive or did injustice to the theme, but somewhere I felt, they completely lost track of the story.

In a small town in New Zealand, Tui Mitcham, a 12 year old girl, tries to kill herself by drowning but is rescued. On medical examination, it is discovered that she is pregnant. Detective Robin Griffin, a specialist in cases involving children, is called for help. She along with Detective Sergeant Al Parker tries to get to the bottom of the case. Matt Mitcham, Tui’s father, the head henchman of the town, tries to deal with the case on his own. He has several ugly disputes with GJ, a spiritual woman leader leading a group of troubled woman, over a land they occupy. When Robin questions Tui if she would tell who is behind the pregnancy, Tui refuses to answer directly. Matters get worse, when Tui disappears- runs away. Robin now has to find the abuser as well as find Tui before something happens to her.

This is a very disturbing plot, no doubt. The screenplay is very slow, and hence the story moves at a snail’s pace. I don’t really mind slow stories, but when the story moves away from the plot, focusing on other characters which don’t really make a difference to the story? That’s when the attention begins to waver. Robin Griffin is the lead of the show. For the first two episodes, she was effective- good with her intuition, head straight with her fellow male officers and all. She has a troubled past (no surprise there!), something similar to Tui and that’s where the narration shifts. The story tries to connect Robin and Tui’s story. Robin subsequently comes across as whining and complaining, self piteous, and her on and off relationship with Tom (Tui’s step brother) gets very irritating and takes the story away.

Looking from a different perspective, my view of the show, my complain that it strayed away from the plot is just because I read the plot online beforehand. Hence, I had a set expectation which might have driven me to the disappointing conclusion about the show. Even with a beautiful scenic setting, a dark hovering theme and a good performance from the cast, the final Sidney Sheldon type of ending overshadows all the good things for me. Al’s attraction towards Robin was sudden and on the face. Matt Mitcham’s outbursts were either overdone or overacted. I never understood the purpose of GJ and her troops. May be just to bring some weirdness? I feel quiet doubtful why I didn’t like the show much while the same show had garnered so many positive reviews, nominations and awards? Could it be because of binge watching it? Guess, that’s an entirely different story.

On the whole, Top of the Lake isn’t a very bad show. It’s creepy, weird and gloomy. It did get my attention for the first few episodes. Probably the in-between ones- Episode 4 and 5 weren’t that great and engaging and hence the loss of interest. You can watch this show for its magnificent setting and at times very exciting scenes, but yes, there are much better shows to spend your time on!


Designated Survivor [2016-]

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Rating: 4.5/5

A lot of interest has been generated around political thrillers after the immense success of House of Cards. It’s not like political thrillers are new to the television arena. There have been several shows like West Wing and Spooks which have dealt with diverse political conditions, national crisis and security issues with equal amount of fact and dramatized fiction. House of Cards just rekindled that interest, gave it a little nudge. I haven’t watched House of Cards but I do intent to watch it. I am just weary of how much I need to catch up. That would require binge watching at the highest level. When I searched for similar shows in this genre, the first popular result and the show which I am about to review was – Designated Survivor.

Who is a Designated Survivor? According to the show, a Designated Survivor is someone who is in line to become the President of the United States of America in case of the demise of the sitting President and all his cabinet ministers. Now that situation seems highly unlikely, isn’t? Yet, when the Capitol building is tragically bombed killing the President and the cabinet ministers, Tom Kirkman- the Designated Survivor, becomes the next President. Now Kirkman, or for that matter anyone in his position, could have never anticipated such a turnaround. He is a very simple and modest man, a Professor in Architecture, the Secretary of Housing and Development- and who was just fired from his position the very same morning. Immediately taking oath after the bombing, Kirkman faces the mountain task of bringing some stability to the currently nonexistent government. With absolutely no political experience, Kirkman struggles to keep his mind focused and put a strong demeanor forward. He receives advice from several fronts but isn’t certain whom to trust and whom not to. Media makes things worse as they correctly doubt the capability of Kirkman as President. How does Kirkman make a stance for himself and how he restores the country back to normalcy while he faces problems from different fronts- cyber crime, terrorism, foreign relations and mainly the investigation into the Capitol bombing is the plot of the show.

The Capitol Bombing investigation storyline runs throughout the season with other problems being mostly episodic. I think that was a very clever move. Agent Hannah Wells is assigned with the investigative task and she uncovers several disconnected pieces which she tries to piece it into one. 90% of the time, this storyline captured my attention. The rest- it was too forced. The number of times Wells gets abducted or gets injured/into trouble is numerous. And her working alone most of the time just got a little irritating. The entire track of Vice President Mackliesh was nicely written. Just at the time when I felt it was being dragged, the track was brought to an end which was smart.

Another part which I loved about the show was bringing Ex-President Cornelius Moss into the picture. Not only did Moss bring with him a vast load of experience, he understood the humongous task Kirkman was facing and offered valuable advice at the right time. He didn’t overstep the line. Rightly, Kirkman appointed him as the Secretary of State and all the scenes involving both of them beautifully showed how much thinking goes behind every decision and how many factors have to be considered to avoid repercussions.

The support staff- Emily, Aaron and Seth- depicted how much of the ground work is carried out by them, making things easy for the President. Without them, the President would just be disabled. It’s good they didn’t drag the Emily-Aaron relationship. I loved the scenes between Seth and Moss. They were a huge comic relief.

The role of media and their power was strongly represented in the show. The government has to decide when and how much the public needs to know. But many a times, the media gets a step forward, due to leaks within the office, and gets secure details into the open, forcing the government to either clarify or deny those information.

Running a government isn’t easy and the President is as much a human being as everyone else. This show beautifully portrays that. There were various instances when Kirkman just couldn’t stop himself being emotional especially when he had to his soldiers into war or when Wells got abducted. He felt responsible for those lives. Also- the changes his position brings into his family- his wife and two children and the adaptations they have to make- just only shows the amount of sacrifices one has to make for the country- not just the President but everyone working along, and not just the President of the USA but every other country.

Coming back to the various tracks- I really wish they had completely ended the Capitol Bombing investigation in the finale, especially when they had identified the traitor in the White House (That track was very good). Taking the same track into the next season too would just only drag the storyline and restrict for further creative tracks.

The writing was tight for the most part. Little drags here and there- but it really held my attention most of the time. The entire atmosphere of the White House was set effectively. The actors did their parts really well- but none of them completely stood out. Kiefer Sutherland was very good as Kirkman- but the majesty and charisma for the stature of a President was missing. May be that’s because he is still on the learning curve and would gain more confidence in due course.

Designated Survivor is an excellent watch especially for those who love political thrillers and conspiracy theories. It’s just one season down and hence very easy to catch up too.


And Then There Were None [BBC Series]

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Review: 3.5/5

Number of episodes: 3

For any Agatha Christie fan, her work And Then There Were None would hold a very special place. In this review, I am going to stick to the series rather than babble my never ending amusement on the brains behind this story. This novel is creepy (It’s specialty!) and keeps you guessing right till the end. I felt chills while reading the book and I geared myself to view one of my favorite thrillers on screen. Did it live up to the book? Let’s find out.

First the premise. And Then There Were None is about ten unrelated people, invited by a Mr and Mrs Owen to their bungalow at a deserted island called Soldier Island. These ten people are from various fields and professions. We have a police in Blor, a doctor in Dr. Armstrong, a judge- Judge Wargrave, a teacher Miss Claythorne, a party boy Marston, a social activist Miss Brent, an army veteran General McArthur, playboy Lombard and the keepers of the house Mr and Mrs Rogers.  There is one curious question in everyone’s mind- Where is Mr and Mrs Owen, their employers/owners? As time progresses, one by one, people begin to die, or say murdered in gruesome ways. But by whom? Mr and Mrs Owen, who are probably hiding? Or is it one of the ten? Each one of them has committed a crime in their life which they are guilty off, which keeps haunting them. Who could possibly know about their past? Their crimes are their only connection. One of the highlights of this story is the old poem- Ten Little Soldiers went out to dine- which is framed and hung in almost everyone’s room and after every death (which happens according to the poem), one of the ten showpieces on the dining table goes missing! Phew!! Add to this, the frightening weather of lightning, rain and thunder. At the end, there is no one alive in the island. And Then There Were None. How?

The BBC adaptation of this marvelous story doesn’t score a perfect 5 but it’s not very bad either. The show captures the mood of the story accurately and the suspense and nervousness did grow on me while viewing, even though I knew the story. Most of the details were captured and used appropriately. The best part was, they didn’t try anything new but stuck to the original. I felt a little impatient at the beginning. A little more time than needed was taken to set the story. The flashbacks of every character was nicely done yet at some places the timing didn’t really work. Like, Blor having his flashback at the very end stuttered the pace. Also- I wish the ending could have been more powerful, a little more into how exactly the murders happened would have been nice. We have the confrontation but much is left for us to be understood. How did the killer make it happen? Wish it had been visually explained too. Too much time was given to Miss Claythorne’s backstory while we didn’t see much for the other important characters. The doubts and feuds between the characters could have been dealt with more clarity. There were lot of loose ends which I felt should have been tied up especially with how the killer timed every murder. I can’t reveal much here as that would give away the main plot. I know it’s not like the book is new or the show is- still I don’t like giving out spoilers (would make my post lengthy too LOL).

The actors were absolutely fantastic. General McArthur would always be my Alan Grant (Jurassic Park) and Judge Wargrave would be Tywin Lannister (GoT). Background music plays its role well. Costumes and the setting were apt.

Having read the book, I knew the ending. I think that kind of definitely influenced my watching?? May be I didn’t feel the needed suspense at certain points because I knew it was a bluff? Adapting a thriller, as a matter of fact, any book is difficult. It would definitely stand good for those who haven’t read the book. But for those who have read it- it becomes a mere comparison of how much effective the show stands to the book and if the show writers have done complete justice to the original author’s work. I would really appreciate this BBC adaptation for not trying too much with And Then There Were None. And Then…is more or less like a cult and is considered as one of Agatha Christie’s finest work if not the best. Even though, I am slightly disappointed with the impact of the ending- this series is still makes a great viewing.