Thursday, September 30, 2010

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983 (2010) – Review

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983 (from now on being referred to as Red Riding: 1983) is the third part of the Red Riding Trilogy (see part 1 and part 2). The film is a detective-style mystery, again with motifs of corruption and literal corruption (and it is honestly going to be hard to delve too deep into the discussion of the use of corruption in the film without spoilers, but I will try my best). The police are corrupt, the township’s elite are corrupt – this is clearly shown (wonderfully summed up in the best line in the film “To the North – where we do what we bloody want!”), but how corruption of the soul affects the human element of the characters is different. In the first two films, the main characters were to an extent innocent at the beginning only to be corrupted and destroyed. Here, the main characters are within the system and begin to feel remorseful for what they have done or the way things are. And what is interesting about the narrative is that even though Maurice Jobson is very much a contributing factor to corruption apparent in Yorkshire the viewer is quick to align with him when guilt has his conscience looking for redemption. Is it because Jobson, while certainly a part of it, is not as bad as the really bad men, or are we, as humans, yearning to look for the good? John Piggott on the other hand has been diminished by the death of his father, yet given a chance to redeem himself and do something positive with his life – he is initially hesitant. It is not until something unmistakable happens that he is truly committed. These two characters fulfill the role of detective for the audience – Piggott the more traditional detective and similar to the first two main characters in the series, while Jobson serves more of an informational role in the narrative. His flashbacks and discoveries aid the viewer in uncovering the truth, but he does not seem to directly help Piggott. The flashbacks are really the most interesting parts of the film, and are all fantastically shot and staged. Since the viewer has gone through two films, knows the past, knows the characters, deeper insight into the characters and their motivations is a welcome device. However, the flashbacks are almost seamlessly cut with the present making it at times difficult to initially tell when and where characters are, but this is really only a minor issue. The character of BJ has an interesting transition throughout the series. Finally, in Red Riding: 1983 he, like the other main characters, is able to stand up and say enough and act to find his salvation and escape. The Wolf’s identity also plays heavily into the idea of the corruption of man juxtaposed to societal ideals for man, who and what should be the best of men. The most evil men in the series are those most trusted in society to do right and be right. Thus, the message of the series seems that even in the darkest corners of human corruption (I have used this word so many times across these three reviews), there is still salvation and escape possible for the good men – light in the dark if you will, which is echoed by the final shot (the whole series has been gloomy, but the final shot is sunny and bright). The series overall demands astute attention from its viewers or they will surely be lost and not catch everything that they need to fully understand the story. And yet, here is where the final part feels like a letdown. It is a good film, well made and acted, but it does not feel complete. For a series that did demand much from its audience, it seems to end very abruptly and with many lingering questions. The main narrative question is answered, rest assured, but the viewer is left to make assumptions on many seemingly key subplots and continuations of the main thread (aka, we find out who the Wolf is – but are left without any other definitive concrete actions to sum up the story). Despite this weakness (caused more by the narrative across the series rather than the film itself), Red Riding: 1983 is another good mystery film in the very good series.

Technical achievements: director Anand Tucker has apparent talent, which is on display in this film, but often is unable to make satisfyingly complete narratives. His use of the camera to alert viewers to details, scene blocking and ability to get good performances are his strengths, but he succeeds more at directing scenes than a full film that flows (though, this is his best film to date). David Higgs’s cinematography is very good, which it needed to be, as both the first two parts are remarkably shot (he used the Red One digital camera). The use of light in the flashbacks is aesthetically interesting and accomplished a “in the past” feel for those scenes. It is a subtle but nice touch. Alison Dominitz’s production design and Barrington Pheloung’s score are also on par with the previous films and fit the tone and atmosphere of the series. David Morrissey finally got to show his acting chops. He is able to be very emotive with his eyes which give his performance a nice layered journey. Mark Addy is also quite good in the film. He does a great job playing a damaged character. Daniel Mays, Peter Mullan and Robert Sheehan are the standouts among a good supporting cast. The series in general has been filled with very good performances and great work from the directors and crew – this film is no different.

Red Riding: 1983 is at its best as a mystery and character study of tarnished men, but does not seem to answer all the questions which would more effectively wrap up the series. 7/10

The Red Riding Trilogy is available on Blu-ray and DVD on or stream Red Riding: 1983 on

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