Series Review: Chernobyl (2019)

Usually I make some kind of cute remarks in these intros that relate to the thing I’m reviewing. But in this case I just can’t. There’s nothing clever I can say. So I guess we should just get into the review itself.

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 movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Chernobyl”.

The Chernobyl power plant, Ukraine, April 1986. It’s in the middle of the night. The people working the plant notice something going awry. The core has exploded. So we follow in the aftermath of that, showing how it affects the people either working the plant or trying to stop it from getting worse. We also get to see how scientist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) tries to figure out ways to fix it, while dealing with all the red tape of the Soviet government. So now we have our historical drama. And man, this is a fucking masterclass in storytelling. Sure, it doesn’t give you any major twists or turns, but it instead takes the relatively straightforward events and tells them in a very nuanced, respectful, and anxiety-inducing way. There isn’t a scene in this show that didn’t have me on the edge of my seat. It may not technically be listed as horror, but it sure as hell felt like it at times.

The characters in this all feel layered, flawed, nuanced, realistic, and overall very interesting. Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov, the scientist put in charge of trying to fix the whole conundrum of the Chernobyl explosion. He’s one of those people who tries to make sense of everything, but also gets frustrated when people won’t listen to him. And it’s interesting to see him go through the various issues he has to deal with in the series. And Harris is fantastic in the role. We also get performances from people like Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Barry Keoghan, Con O’Neill, Paul Ritter, David Dencik, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for “Chernobyl” was composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, and it was fantastic. It’s dark, it’s eerie, it’s emotional, it’s anxiety-inducing… it’s exactly the kind of score that is befitting of the storytelling. So yeah, it fits quite well.

Based on the horrifying nuclear disaster in 1986, the show was created and written by Craig Mazin, with Johan Renck directing. And the craft behind this is stellar. The direction is always eerie, never letting up any of the suspense. It’s claustrophobic, but also intimate with its characters, really bringing you into their personal struggles. And the cinematography by Jakob Ihre is quite eerie too.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 83/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 9,7/10 and is ranked #1 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“Chernobyl” isn’t a fun show… but it is quite fantastic. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and great writing/directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Chernobyl” is a 9,94/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Chernobyl” is now completed.

You know what’s interesting? The guy who wrote this show also wrote the “Hangover” sequels and some of the later “Scary Movie” entries.

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: A Very English Scandal (2018)

What? You thought I was taking a break from blogging just because it’s christmas? Pffft. Don’t be silly.

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… “A Very English Scandal”.

We follow Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), a British politician who’s beloved by many. But that could change if the people found out that he’d had a sexual relationship with a young man named Norman (Ben Whishaw). So really this is all about how Thorpe tries to cover up this part of his life, for fear of Norman exposing him. And I really liked the plot here. It not only gives us an engaging personal journey for both Thorpe and Norman, but we also get a fascinating look at how British politics and such worked in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s mainly steeped in drama, which it already handles very well, but what really gives it an edge is a sort of sly wit that makes it a lot more watchable. So yeah, the plot here is layered, fun, and overall quite engaging.

The characters here are layered, colorful, and just overall interesting. Hugh Grant plays Jeremy Thorpe, a highly charismatic British politician (paradoxical description, I know) who, as I already mentioned, has a secret… a secret that back in those days could be devastating if it would be brought into the light. So seeing him develop throughout the show as he deals with trying to hide his “shameful sins” is quite fascinating. And Hugh Grant is Hugh Great in the role. Ben Whishaw plays Norman Josiffe, the young man that Thorpe has his affair with. After they have a bit of a falling out, Norman kind of tries to expose this affair to the world. And seeing him go through all his struggles in the series is quite interesting. And Whishaw is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Alex Jennings, Patricia Hodge, Paul Hilton, Blake Harrison, and many more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the show was composed by Murray Gold, and I think he did a great job with it. Remember how I said the storytelling here has kind of a sly wit to it? That often reflects in the score as well, as it both through its excellent main theme and a few other pieces carries an almost bouncy feel to it that captures the witty style quite well. That’s not to say that it’s all fun, as Gold also knows when to pull it back a bit and create some really good dramatic pieces.

Based on a book by John Preston, the show was written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Stephen Frears, and I think their teamwork here paid off quite well, as I think the craft on display here is really solid. There’s an energy to it all that makes it quite entertaining to follow, Frears (who is a generally a good director) really brought his A-game here. And Davies’ writing here presents all characters here in a way that doesn’t take much of an actual stance. Positives, negatives, both are shown here. The writing here is also surprisingly funny. Not in a straight-up comedy kind of way, but (again) in a sort of sly way.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 97% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 84/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“A Very English Scandal” is a surprisingly entertaining political drama filled with great acting. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, great music, and great writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “A Very English Scandal” is a 9,61/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “A Very English Scandal” is now completed.

Maybe Hugh Grant is more of a character actor than a proper leading man…