A short-but-sweet three-part series that puts a twist on everyday crime drama, Criminal: UK is an intriguing psychological delve into the mind of a criminal.
Gripping an audience with little more than one location and dialogue sequence is an immensely difficult task. However, done correctly and the world is gifted with masterpiece scenes such as those in Inglorious Basterds (dir. Quintin Tarantino, 2009) and No Country for Old Men (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007). Creators George Kay and Jim Field Smith superbly pull of this skill, engaging viewers through 45-minute-long episodes set almost entirely around one table.
Each episode of Criminal: UK examines the details of three different suspect questionings, almost never leaving the interrogation room. We learn about the crimes through the words of the criminal; a story that is ever changing and full of plot-twists. Kay and Smith shoot with a balanced perspective, demonstrating how the justice system is not clear cut. Sympathy is evoked for the villain, while the police are shown at fault (and vice versa).
A true strength of Criminal: UK is its ability to subvert expectation, leading viewers to be constantly unsure on the suspects guilt. There is no right or wrong in Kay and Smiths Netflix mini-series, thoroughly layering the story line in a more realistic depiction of crime. A second achievement of Criminal: UK is the building of tension. Achieved through both the tense dialogue and imaginative cinematography, viewers are left holding their breath at what is about to come. An eloquent use of silence and slow pans construct a gripping atmosphere; something easily lost in such long dialogue routines.
Episode one stars David Tenant as a dead-pan murder-suspect who divulges nothing, bar the words “no comment”. Episode two casts Hayley Atwell as a vengeful sister trying to conceal her shame and part in a homicide. The third and final episode of Criminal: UK focuses on a lorry driver caught abandoning a truck full of starving immigrants, played by Youssef Kerkour. Parallel to this is the complexities of the investigating staff, both in their relationship to each other and the criminals. Every performance is carried out impeccably, with Kay and Smith managing immense character development (considering the short of amount of plot time they receive).
Criminal: UK is most certainly a unique addition to the list of TV crime dramas, for which a change up was long overdue. For those who enjoyed the likes of Line of Duty (dir. Jed Mercurio, 2012-19) and Mindhunter (dir. Joe Penhall, 2017-19), Criminal: UK is definitely worth your while.