Re:View – ‘The Killing’
How do you create a ‘talker’ you can’t talk about?
‘Is this any good?’ asked the girl at HMV as I bought the boxed set. ‘Everyone seems to be asking for it.’
This is the Danish TV thriller that was built almost entirely by word of mouth – certainly without much help from its broadcaster, who seemed vaguely embarrassed that it even existed – and became a national sensation. It had reached its tipping point fast enough for me to buy it unseen, yet no-one can talk about it for fear of giving anything away.
Comparisons with ‘The Wire’ are pointless, as both are excellent and both require subtitles if you’re English. ‘The Killing’ raises the bar for TV thrillers because its cliffhangers emerge from the elegantly constructed plot, and each of the 20 episodes adds depth to the subtly nuanced story.
I detested 24 and CSI, with all those textbook infodumps and everyone wandering around in the dark because it looked cool. Here we’re in Copenhagen, and the darkness feels as natural as the unhelpful dourness of the residents. Sarah Lund, DSI, is about to decamp to Sweden with her son to be with her boyfriend, but the case of a murdered girl delays her trip (at one point, dragging her off a moving plane).
We follow the grieving parents, the political campaigners, the suspects and the police through twenty days of investigation. The performances are painfully real, camerawork is intelligent and big-screen beautiful, and the story is a work of art, organic yet thrilling. Everyone is believably exhausted and stressed, and their actions are carefully shaded.
I enjoyed this a lot more than ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ (books or TV), partly because it understands how suspense should work and mercilessly plays on the nerves. Billed as ‘A Thriller’ rather than a series, ‘The Killing’ has no dead episodes, no bridges between the good shows, and simply feels like one longer-than-usual movie.
Having said that, series 2 is on its way, and I can’t wait.