Series Review: The Looming Tower (2018)

I don’t have anything clever to say here. Usually I do, but there’s nothing I can think of here. This show deals with some sensitive stuff, so it’s hard to make up an intro that is fun. So let’s just get into it, I guess.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a show… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “The Looming Tower”.

Set in the late 90s, we follow people from both the FBI and the CIA as they both try to stop the rising threat that is the Al-Qaeda. But their inability to cooperate makes the process a lot more troublesome than it could be. So now we have our historical counter-terrorism drama. And let’s make it clear right now, this isn’t counter-terrorism in the Jack Ryan sense where there’s a bunch of thrilling action scenes. This is a slow burning drama all about investigating and bureaucracy and arguing and such. And I found it all utterly compelling, thanks to calculated writing that prefers to take the realistic and relatively mundane path to its goal, compared to so many counter-terrorism stories, which tend to go for the thrilling sensationalist route. But yeah, I really liked the plot here.

The characters in this are flawed, nuanced, interesting, and fairly realistic. First up we have Jeff Daniels as John O’Neill, an FBI agent keen on stopping Al-Qaeda the right way (arrest, court, all that jazz). And while he generally tries to be a good guy, he does have some skeletons in his closet shown throughout that make him quite compelling. And Daniels is fantastic in the role. Next we have Tahar Rahim as Ali Soufan, a new agent within the FBI who gets assigned to work with O’Neill in finding and stopping the various Al-Qaeda members who may exist. And he has some god development throughout that makes him quite interesting. And Rahim is great in the role. And we get supporting performances from people like Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin, Ella Rae Peck, Jamie Neumann, Louis Cancelmi, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Will Bates, who I think did a damn solid job. It goes for a relatively downplayed and somber style. You won’t hear big, tense brass in this to highten the tension of a scene, instead the pieces are smaller, more intimate, almost droning at times to sort of help capture that realistic/slow burning counter-terrorism style that the show’s going for. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout that work in their respective scenes. So yeah, this show has good music.

Based on a book by Lawrence Wright, the show was created by Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright himself, with writing and directing by a whole bunch of people. And the craft here is really tight, giving us close and intimate examinations of all the various situations while also giving us the sweeping storytelling of everything leading up to 9/11. The directing gets in close with the characters and really made me feel like a fly on the wall in these situations, I was fully immersed thanks to the tight work of the crew. And the way the show occasionally splices in real life news footage is pretty damn good.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10.

“The Looming Tower” is a compelling counter-terrorism drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Looming Tower” is a 9,62/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Looming Tower” is now completed.

You know what’s a little funny? I made a comment about this not being Jack Ryan-esque in style, but Alec Baldwin (who once played Jack Ryan) is in the show.

Series Review: Godless (2017)

A Netflix western miniseries? Yeah, I didn’t need any convincing to watch this. So here we go.

Ladies and gents… “Godless”.

Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell) used to be part of an infamous gang up until he betrayed them. And the gang’s leader, Frank (Jeff Daniels), wants Roy dead for that. So now Roy is hiding out in a town called La Belle, a town run entirely by women. So now we have our western plot. And with this plot they embrace pretty much every western cliché known to man… but they also put some interesting new perspectives on them to make them feel a bit more fresh. There’s a lot of good drama here that I found myself quite invested in while they still gave me some of the classic western plot points. If I had to make a comparison in plot style I’d say that this is part “The Beguiled” and part “Red Dead Redemption”. There’s the women-majority cast of the first, and the violent gang betrayal stuff of the latter. And I think it makes for an interesting mix in this show. Hell, I’d say that it’s great.

The characters here are given a good amount of time to develop and I think they’re interesting. Jack O’Connell plays Roy Goode, the former outlaw hiding out in La Belle. He has the kill-skills from his gang-days, but you can tell that he’s also a good guy who prefers to live quietly and help out. He’s a tragic character and O’Connell is great in the role. Michelle Dockery plays Alice Fletcher, the woman who is responsible for helping/hiding Goode. She’s tough, but she also shows a more vulnerable side during the show, giving her a good amount of layers. And Dockery is great in the role. Then we have Merritt Wever as Mary Agnes, one of the many women of Le Belle. She’s tough as hell, but you can tell that she’s also a sad and damaged character. And Wever is great in the role. Then we have Scott McNairy as Bill McNue, the Sheriff of La Belle and one of very few men there. He’s aging, but he’s still determined to get the job done. And McNairy is great in the role. Then we have Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin, the outlaw in charge that Roy Goode betrayed. What I like about him is that he isn’t just a ruthless asshole kind of outlaw, but he’s given a lot of interesting sides to him. He’s damaged, he’s charismatic, he has a kind heart, but he is also an intimidating outlaw that will shoot you dead if you cross him. And Daniels is absolutely great in the role. The final one I want to go slightly more in-depth with is Whitey Winn, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. He’s a slightly over-confident young deputy. But they don’t go the route of making his over-confidence turning him into an unlikable idiot (which so many shows/movies do), but they show that it’s a flaw of his. But generally he is a good guy that is worth liking. And Brodie-Sangster is great in the role. And then you can expect some great performances from people like Kim Coates, Samuel Marty, Tantoo Cardinal, Sam Waterston, Christiane Seidel, Erik LaRay Harvey, Jessica Sula, and many more. Seriously, this is an incredibly well acted series.

The score for the show was composed by Carlos Rafael Rivera and it was pretty fucking great. Trumpets, strings, piano, other types of brass… seriously, this is a full-on western score emulating a lot of classic ones and it makes me so happy. And overall it is just fantastic, perfectly fitting the show and often elevating scenes throughout the show.

This show was created by Scott Frank and Steven Soderbergh, with Frank having written and directed all of the episodes. And I think he did a fantastic job with that. His direction here is sweeping, but also tight and focused when it needs to. It has a good sense of flow and style to it, while also managing to create a good amount of tension to it whenever it needs to. And let’s talk about the shooty-bang-bangs (I know they’re called shootouts, but I prefer my phrase for them). They’re badass, fun, exciting, and quite violent. There’s even a decent amount of tension in them, making them even more interesting.

This show just came out but has already been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it (as of writing this) has a score of 8,5/10.

“Godless” is another win for Netflix. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/action. Time for my final score. *Bang*. My final score for “Godless” is a 9,85/10. This of course means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Godless” is now completed.

Part of me wants more. But part of me feels like it should stay a miniseries.