25 May 2024
Apple TV Manhunt read our first impression

Apple TV+ Review – Manhunt (2024) – First Impressions

Read our First Impressions of Apple TV+ series Manhunt

[This is a First Impressions rather than a full review as, at time of writing, we haven’t been able to watch all seven episodes. A more thorough review will follow as soon as possible]

Another lavishly mounted Apple TV+ period piece, Manhunt tells the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, and the subsequent effort to track him down and bring him to justice. And it certainly is beautifully produced, evoking the 1865 setting exceptionally well through its set design, gloomy lighting, and colour palette, particularly through its costumes and makeup. The hats! The preposterously enormous hats! And whatever the hair and makeup team were getting paid was almost certainly not enough, with seemingly half the cast’s faces almost smothered by magnificent moustaches, bristling beards, and, in some cases, massive mutton chops.

The storytelling remains a little more of a question mark as of yet. At this point, the pace does feel rather slow, but there’s every possibility that this will change as things progress further, since at the time of writing it’s still quite early days. It certainly earns the benefit of the doubt, since a more charitable word for slow would be “deliberate”: Manhunt takes a thorough, forensic interest in all the small specific details of its story that it wouldn’t have time to dwell on if it had been a movie rather than a series, and it’s those details that make it feel real, lived-in and believable. Some of the dialogue is a bit too clever for its own good, mind, with one character asking Booth, who was an actor before he was a Presidential assassin, why he never plays good guys on stage.

Anthony Boyle plays Booth as someone motivated by political grievances (for which read: he’s a big racist who’s angry that Lincoln abolished slavery), but also by a grossly inflated ego. He comes from an acting family where he’s not as well-known as his father and brother, and has seized on the idea of murdering Lincoln because it’s a surefire way of becoming the most famous person in the US. Between this and Masters of the Air, he’s having an excellent year. And it’s lovely to see Tobias Menzies in a rare leading role as Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s close friend and Secretary for War, asthmatic, driven, and obsessed with doing everything himself on his quest for justice – and possibly vengeance. It is quite amusing that Booth quotes Caesar’s assassins, shouting “sic semper tyrannis” upon shooting Lincoln since Menzies played Brutus so memorably in Rome.

There are kinks to iron out but so far Manhunt is a very promising production. From a technical and production standpoint it’s across-the-board excellent, but it’s difficult to appraise a story based only on its first few chapters. Things are definitely looking up with the introduction of Lovie Simone as Mary, who offers a very welcome Black person’s perspective on a story that necessarily hinges on the aftermath of the American Civil War. So far it’s a great deal of build-up, but there’s certainly plenty of potential for the payoff to be worth the wait.

Streaming on Apple TV+ from 15 March | Tobias Menzies, Anthony Boyle, Lovie Simone | Dir: Carl Franklin & TBC | Apple Studios 


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