Review: Red Riding Trilogy DVD

STUDIO: IFC/MPI | DIRECTOR: Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker | CAST: David Morrissey, Jim Carter, Andrew Garfield, Sean Bean, Rebecca Hall, Paddy Considine, Peter Mullan, Robert Sheehan
RELEASE DATE: 8/31/10 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, Blu-ray $34.98
BONUSES: featurettes, Julian Jarrold interview, deleted scenes
SPECS: NR | 308 min. | Crime drama/mystery | 1.85:1 widescreen and 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Individually titled 1974, 1980 and 1983 and based on actual events, the films of the Red Riding Trilogy recount investigations into a series of killings in the West Riding district of Yorkshire. The setting for the trilogy is not quaint Old York or the romantic moors; it’s the damp soulless industrial North where hard lives are spent in cheap row houses and characterless bars. The region is dominated by local despots who toast themselves with, “To the North, where we do what we want,” and who plunder and pillage in a manner befitting an earlier, barbaric past.

The full titles of the three films begin “In the Year of our Lord…” and in each, a damaged protagonist seeks redemption in a world permeated with corruption (as if James Ellroy had wandered into England’s Leeds).

In Julian Jarrold’s 1974, a fallen-star journalist (Andrew Garfield) finds his ambitions in jeopardy as he’s drawn into a case of missing girls and an affair with one of the girls’ mothers. In James Marsh’s 1980, an outside police officer (Paddy Considine) haunted by his childless marriage, has the uncomfortable and dangerous task of conducting the internal investigation of the inquiry into the Ripper-like murder of local prostitutes. And Anand Tucker’s 1983 finds a penny-ante lawyer (Mark Addy, whose comedic charms add some much-needed warmth to the movie) overcoming drink and sloth as he uncovers his own family secrets and brings resolution — and a measure of peace — to the three stories.

As individual films, the first two entries of Red Riding are richly atmospheric and beautifully acted. Pieces of the puzzles are omitted, which adds to the overall sense of unease. In the third film, flashbacks fill in the blanks. The solutions to the mysteries thus unfold naturally — the suspects aren’t gathered into a room and the killer revealed. This makes the impact of the trilogy powerful and intelligent, but the stand-alone films are less so. Similarly, 1974 (filmed in 16mm) is visually murky, 1980 (filmed in 35mm) is almost too saturated, and in 1983, the flashbacks are overexposed (and shot on the Red One high-definition camera), all of which adds further to the unease and total effect.

In the superb cast, Rebecca Hall (The Town) and Robert Sheehan (Season of the Witch) are particular standouts.


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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.