Musings on TV Series Recently Watched: Bodyguard & SS-GB

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (I think you can still say that until at least mid January, right?)

It’s a relatively mellow weekend for me and I realize I haven’t actually written a review in 2019 yet but I’ve been bingeing a ton of shows in the past month or so. I’ve blogged about Daredevil Season 3 in December, which I absolutely love!

So here’s my quick thoughts on these four series I saw in the past couple of months…

BODYGUARD (2018)

Right after Daredevil Season 3, my hubby and I actually binged on BBC’s Bodyguard which is the perfect show to watch after ending on such a fantastic series!

Police Sergeant David Budd, a heroic British Army war veteran suffering from PTSD, who is now working as a specialist protection officer for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. He is assigned to protect the ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose politics stand for everything he despises.

Right from the first episode where Budd foils a female suicide bomber’s plot to blow up the train he’s riding on, the intensity of the show never lets up. I love that right away we see a flawed protagonist, as Budd is dealing with PTSD and is separated from his wife. Richard Madden just won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Budd and it’s a well-deserved win, perhaps a high in his relatively-young career. Yes I think there ought to be a category for ‘Best Jawline on TV’ as Budd oozes so much sex appeal even just standing there guarding his client (those secret agent earpiece never looked so sexy on a man).

Also kudos to Keeley Hawes as the conservative MP Julia Montague, torn between her high-profile political career and her undeniable attraction to Budd. Boy, the chemistry between these two is quite scorching!

Yet the series smartly plays on the ‘opposites attract’ theme and able to keep the tension high from one episode to the next, making this one of the most intriguing and addictive psychological thriller. I think the political plot is pretty absorbing, but it’s the character-driven storyline, portrayed wonderfully by the key cast, that makes this such a satisfying show to watch. Bring on season 2!!

 

P.S. I knew that as soon as I saw Madden on this show he’d go on to be the frontrunner for the next Bond. Heck, why not?? He’s definitely got the looks and can balance the sex appeal + grit for the role. Plus, I’d love to see another sexy Scotsman as 007!


SS-GB (2017)

Speaking of James Bond, SS-GB is written by British screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who co-wrote the six James Bond films from The World Is Not Enough to Spectre.

Set in a 1941 alternative timeline in which the United Kingdom is occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer, of the London’s Metropolitan Police is called in to investigate a murder in a flat in Shepherd Market.

The series is based on Len Deighton‘s novel of the same name, which was a pretty intriguing read despite being overly too-detailed for my liking. I always love alternative universe, and this series share major similarities with Amazon’s Man In The High Castle except instead of US, it’s set in Britain. I’m also a huge fan of Sam Riley who I think is an underrated actor, so I’m convinced I’d LOVE this series.

Alas, despite its gripping premise, there’s something so lackluster in the way the show is written and directed (by German director Philipp Kadelbach). Yes I know London is mostly grey and perhaps even murky, but must everything be so drab and dour? And the pacing just lacks energy. At first I was intrigued by its quiet intensity and smoky atmosphere (literally, as Archer lights a cigarette every few seconds!), but after a while it just feels too sluggish with only a handful memorable moments that are too few and far between. Now, I love Riley’s gorgeous profile, but I feel like the close-up shots of him are way too indulgent that it starts to look like a photoshoots for Burberry coats and Fedora.

I expect a lot from the writers of Bond movies, but then again they’ve made duds like Quantum of Solace and Spectre. I have to say that the production design and set pieces made for a convincing look of alternative Britain under Nazi occupation, and everyone looked appropriately grim. Yet there’s no sense of real urgency to the whole thing, and there’s few heart-wrenching moments that make you care for the characters. I do like James Cosmo as Detective Sergeant Harry Woods, Archer’s friend and colleague, just wish there were more memorable scenes of these two.

My least favorite character is Barbara Barga, an American reporter played by Kate Bosworth. I think she is a bit miscast here, not to mention lacking chemistry with Riley. I think she’s actually a tad more convincing as Lois Lane in Superman Returns, though a far cry from the spunky Margot Kidder in the role. I was quite intrigued by Standartenführer Oskar Huth (Lars Eidinger), an SS officer newly-arrived in London who initially made Archer’s life a living hell. Eidinger is a brilliant actor that has some memorable moments, but I think he’s far more interesting in the book. The same with the entire series, I find Deighton’s novel far more engrossing by a long shot. Ultimately it’s a thriller that lacking any real thrills, which is a shame considering the talents involved and promising source material. That said, if you like these types of alternative WWII stories, it’s still worth renting.

 

 

P.S. Given the Bond connection, at one point people were talking about Sam Riley as a possible candidate for the next 007. Hey, I’d be down for that. At this point though, I think Madden certainly has more edge to play the role.


Have you seen either one of these series? I’d love to hear what you think!

Belated Birthday Tribute to Sam Riley

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I can’t believe I missed my darling Sam’s birthday yesterday!! My favorite actor turned 37 on January 8… and since he made his breakthrough debut in Control in 2007, he doesn’t seem to have aged a day!

He was born on January 8, 1980 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. I love his Yorkshire accent, spoken with his signature husky voice. He’s a chain smoker which likely contributes to that… and he’s got that devil-may-care attitude paired with self-deprecating wit that’s so irresistible!

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Oh Sam Riley… how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Yes I know the word ‘underrated’ is not a popular word to use right now, but I really do think Sam is grossly under-appreciated as for whatever reason, he’s simply hasn’t gotten as much work as his fellow Brits. Maybe because he lives in Berlin, away from Tinsel Town or even the UK’s movie scene in London. And he’s a happily-married man, he’s been married to Romanian/German actress Alexandra Maria Lara for 8 years (a lifetime by Hollywood standards) and has a young boy together.

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Sam w/ Alexandra on the premiere of Free Fire, Fall 2016 – photo courtesy of SamRiley.org

They met on the set of Control, which is kind of a fairy tale romance in itself, and they worked together again in Suite Francaise in 2014.  Look at these two, such a gorgeous couple!!

I was literally hyperventilating last week when I saw BBC ONE’s preview featuring SS-GB … can’t wait to get my copy of the February edition of EMPIRE magazine. Lookie here, Sam in a glorious spread as a Scotland Yard detective, decked in a dapper suit and fedora? YES PLEASE!!

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Courtesy of @CarryOnScarlett tweet

I’m also super excited to see Sam in Free Fire! I’ve posted the first trailer here, which looks like a hoot w/ a terrific cast! So there are at least two of Sam’s work I’m looking forward to in Spring, hopefully more to come later in the year.


Photos courtesy of AdoroCinema

Well, I did a Sam Riley marathon last year which made me appreciate him even more as an actor. He’s so self-deprecating that he often says in interviews that they only hire him ‘to blow smoke rings and cry’ as his debut role as Ian Curtis is a forlorn, suicidal tortured soul who smokes like a chimney. But clearly he’s more versatile than that, having played a psychopath (Brighton Rock), Beat Generation pioneer Jack Kerouac (On The Road), a naval vampire (Byzantium), an Austrian cowboy (The Dark Valley), a man bird (Maleficent), a French farmer (Suite Française), and of course, Colonel Darcy (Pride + Prejudice + Zombies)… the role I fell head over heels in love with.

So in my tribute to the phenomenal actor who I think should get more leading roles… here are five key roles that will forever mark me as a Sam Riley fan.

CONTROL (2007)

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.

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Since January 8th was also the birthday of rock icon David Bowie, it’s only natural I include THIS very scene from Sam’s debut role in a feature film. It’s been a decade since that film came out and I think it’s still regarded as one of the greatest, most poignant rock biopic ever made. Sam’s devastating performance doesn’t just capture Ian as a musical genius, but he captured the enigma and inner pain of the young man, who’s dealing with epilepsy and depression as his band gained fame beyond his control.

On the Road (2012)

Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.

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Sam once again portrays a real-life persona, as his character Sal is basically Jack Kerouac. He sports an effortless American accent as a quiet, reflective writer observing his wild and carefree friend Dean. He works well with Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, who at the time was at the height of Twilight’s mass hysteria. He’s the kind of actors who can disappear into his roles, he has an earthy every-man quality about him, yet he makes even the most mundane activity like typing or just scribbling in a notepad seems so darn sexy.

 

Byzantium (2013)

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Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

Sam didn’t have a big part in this film but his role of Darvell is an important one to the story. Like the rest of the cast, the actors portray their roles in two separate timelines centuries apart. I’ve done a full review of it here, it’s quite a mesmerizing film by Neil Jordan… eerie, ethereal and mysteriously romantic. Wish I could find the exact clip, but I love all the scenes between Sam and Gemma Arterton. It’d be cool to see them do a film together again one day.

The Dark Valley (2014)

Through a hidden path a lone rider reaches a little town high up in the Alpes. Nobody knows where the stranger comes from, nor what he wants there. But everyone knows that they don’t want him to stay.

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This is the film I tell everyone to see if they’ve only seen Sam in Control. It’s an excellent Schnitzel Western (read my full review) shot entirely in the Austria Alps where the characters are Austrian/German except for Sam. He learned German when he married his wife, and to me he sounds very much believable as a taciturn, lone-ranger type who exacts vengeance on a group of townsfolk in a meticulously-calculated way. I always love actors who could convey a lot of emotions with his eyes and facial expressions alone, and Sam certainly got to do that here, whilst also being a bad-ass cowboy at the same time!

Check out my Music and Cinematography appreciation for this film here.

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016)

Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies.

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Well, THIS is the role that got me to notice Sam, which is a major reason why PPZ is on my top 10 list of the first half of 2016. Though I’m a huge period drama fan, for some reason I’ve never been into Mr. Darcy. Give me Captain Wentworth or Colonel Brandon any day over Darcy, but that is until Sam’s COLONEL DARCY came along. From the moment Lizzy saw him arriving at the ball (beginning at 01:48 in the clip below) I was a goner!

Then of course there’s the initially-awkward proposal scene that ends in a glorious, sexually-charged battle between the two… woo wee… THIS is the kind of Darcy I’ve ever hyperventilated over. The chemistry between him and Lily James is off the charts!

Some might say Sam isn’t as dastardly handsome as Colin Firth (which I beg to differ), but he certainly imbued his Darcy character with an extra dose of badassery without sacrificing his romantic side. In fact, in his second proposal scene, he’s perfectly swoon-worthy!

Favorite Sam Interviews

Well I always say that I can’t fall for any actor who lacks personality… no matter how good looking *cough* Henry Cavill *cough* But Sam’s interviews are a hoot, they’re almost as entertaining as watching him act.

His voice is music to my ear too, and he’s just as entertaining to listen to in a podcast interview!


I literally could go on and on in this post about Sam… but I better wrap it up and post this. I hope you learned a bit more about the talented actor, and hopefully check out more of his work!


What film(s) have you seen Sam Riley in?