Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TV review: Collision reviews - first without spoilers, then scroll for spoilers

Spoiler-free comments
Collision had very distinguished cast, led by lovely Douglas Henshall (John Tolin), and with fine work as well from the likes of Paul McGann (Richard Reeves) and Lucy Griffiths (Jane Tarrant). With multiple storylines centred on a crash, tracking back and forth from before the crash to the event itself and then its aftermath and the investigation, it was of course a very British take on the Oscar-scooping film, Crash. I rather liked that film, but acknowledge its weaknesses and that it was very unpopular for winning the Best Picture Oscar over Brokeback Mountain.

Perhaps my liking of 'Crash' and my love of Dougie's performances meant I was more inclined to go with the narrative structure of this 5-part ITV drama (aired in other countries in two parts). With Horowitz in the driving seat - I've recently been watching some of his earlier work on Poirot - there were plenty of twists and turns, but I'm not sure how convincing it was in the end. Still, Cloud watched it with me quite eagerly, was keen enough to do a double-back on the ITV catch-up on Thursday when we missed the start due to having been out at a cello concert, and watched the finale in my absence. So that has to be worth something.

Personally, episodes 3 and 4 were the high points, but with one of the central storylines wrapped up by the end of ep4, there was a certain degree of anti-climax to ep5.

Anyone watching the show since it first aired a few weeks ago outside the UK (and that includes US viewers who get it on PBS Masterpiece Contemporary) will doubtless note that one core element of the plot from the ending would have made MUCH more sense had the drama been screened in Spring 2009 as originally scheduled*. That alone had me groaning slightly at the ending. But the explanation for the crash...? Sigh.

*I do try to not rant on about distribution issues, but there is something wrong about a UK developed drama starring UK actors not airing in the UK first (though I'd personally be happier with worldwide airing on simultaneous dates as much as is feasible).

My overall reaction: good. Not excellent, as 'Place of Execution' had been (or even 'Whitechapel') but a solid narrative that kept me watching to follow each storyline to its conclusion, even if some were more satisfactorily concluded than others.












Things I liked:
Dougie and his performance - nicely nuanced, though the relationships with both Ann (Kate 'WHAAAAT?!' Ashfield) and his daughter Jodie (Jo Woodcock - excellent performance from her) were a bit sketchy. Not having Jodie reappear in ep5 after the intense conversation with her father seemed odd. Felt the punch to the drunk driver when he forgave Tolin was very 'true' as a reaction as was Tolin's eventual remorse and moving on.

Lucy Griffiths getting on the train - hurrah. McGann may have been playing a fantasist shit but he gave her the inspiration to try to reach her dreams. As Jane tearfully tried to convince the hapless Dave, they wanted different things: in many respects it wasn't even really about handsome Richard whisking her off her feet with his riches and fancy opportunities. She was already not happy before the crash, bulldozed by circumstances into marriage, so it was nice to think she had a chance of breaking free.

Zoe Telford as Sandra Rampton the snooty wife taking no shit from the dodgy garage-based people-smugglers - contrasted with poor Naomi's attempts to get them to talk to her about her husband. Am convinced that Mrs Rampton knew full well the crash driver brother-in-law Danny would not be going further than the scrap yard.

The refugee Tsegga (Cornelius Macarthy) - scathingly noting his English language skills to those transporting him to England.

The Christine/Brian Edwards storyline with the obnoxious mother-in-law (respectively Jan Francis, Phil Davis, and Sylvia Sims) - I was fine with this until ep5 when there was a virtually word for word replay of dialogue from the previous episode (unless I was mistaking a flashback for a new scene). And that annoyed me so much.

Things I disliked:
Tolin ditching the 'journalist' to his fate - it felt somewhat out of kilter that despite 'Taylor' using Karen (and therefore leading to her death), Tolin would willfully leave him be killed.

The wasp ending - oh pur-lease! I get this was about randomness, the small things in life that have big rippling effects, but really. And tho I'll watch it again I'm pretty sure the presence of wasps wasn't there in 'casual' scenes until ep5 which feels like a tag-on for the narrative explanation. UPDATE: apparently there were wasps. I am Ms unobservant.

The heavy-handed 'misdirection' on the Sidney Morris/Norris story - it was actually a nice twist they had (would have been even better if they'd screened in Spring as planned before Star Trek came out) but my God, could they have laden on the paedophile misdirection story any thicker?

Dropping the black characters' crash story first - not racist, just disappointing to see it dismissed first of all the storylines. Just about compensated by the intelligent refugee engineer Tsegga, though it would have been better to see his wife Naomi get some justice from the people smugglers come-uppance.

Would I have watched this without the ever-compelling Douglas Henshall in a key role? Possibly, but also possibly not. There was enough to keep us watching anyway, but I'm not sure if we would have been quite so interested in watching from the start without his performance to pull us in. And if we hadn't watched the first ep, I doubt we would have involved ourselves in the rest. Worthwhile, but perhaps adding up to less than the sum of its parts.


LyleD4D said...

I have to say I agree with you pretty much wholly.

There were wasps in every episode - not overtly so, but definitely a focus on at least one per episode. I'd sussed the relevance - and even figured the (wet, wanky) ending before they got there.

But overall yeah, it wasn't a bad bit of TV/drama, except for the last 10 minutes or so. It felt very much like a cutesy American "so everything was all right really" ending.

Jane Henry said...

I agree with you completely. I hadn't realised that it was supposed to have been aired earlier, so didn't twig at all about the Star Trek thing, & it came as a surprise. Also surprised by Richard turning out to be SUCH a shit, cos I naively thought he was v unhappy and had fallen for her. (That's Paul McGann for you!) My favourite moment was the reconciliation between Tolin and his daughter which was really touching, but I agree, that it was out of character for Tolin to have left the journalist to his fate. I also thought it highly unlikely that the driver would be allowed to come near him without permission, but as you say that punch felt real!!

The smuggling storyline was very good - that wife was so evil!! I think she knew too.

But it did make me laugh that three of the deaths occurred AFTER the accident, as likely as?? well me meeting Dougie Henshall I suppose.

I was infuriated by the wasp. Completely crap ending as it turned out. Most touched by Lenora Critchlow's death - but wanted to know how that boyfriend was able to persuade the dad not to sue - cos in a way he was doing a noble thing to prevent the dad from knowing what his daughter was really like.

Could have been better but I am an Anthony Horowitz fan and I do like the way he keeps the pace moving.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Most touched by Lenora Critchlow's death - but wanted to know how that boyfriend was able to persuade the dad not to sue - cos in a way he was doing a noble thing to prevent the dad from knowing what his daughter was really like.

Yes! And as Neil noted, she must be wondering as an actress when she'll next get a part where she's alive for more than a small part of the narrative!

Persephone said...

I haven't read your spoiler section, nor the comments, because I've yet to see the second half of Collision. (Most Canadian viewers will be watching it on the American PBS stations they can access on cable or satellite.) I'm a little worried now. I was riveted by the first half and have been looking forward to the second, but you apparently preferred Place of Execution and I found the ending of that very disappointing -- shades of (dare I say it?) Secret Smile. I found the explanation contrived. Perhaps I will now find the end of Collision even more so.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Persephone, as i'm unsure where the dividing point comes in the two part version of Collision, I'm not sure how many thrills there are to come in part 2. But yeah, sorry, the last 10 mins are a bit unconvincing shall we say...

Persephone said...

Judging from the British synopsis (which I have carefully not read to the end), the break comes after Part Three. Just started watched Whitechapel on our local educational channel (Ontario) last night. Looks very promising; hope I'm not mistaken!

Anonymous said...

"convinced that Mrs Rampton knew full well the crash driver brother-in-law Danny would not be going further than the scrap yard"

That may have been her plan all along. Perhaps the money she gave Danny was payment to the men that killed him.

Persephone said...

Just saw the second half of Collision. Actually, I much preferred it to State of Execution which, as I've said, I found rather implausible and very Secret Smile-ish.

I did feel, though, that the Masterpiece Contemporary version may have dropped some scenes, particularly relating to the refugee storyline. In your review, you're making references to things I simply don't remember. That could be my faulty memory (heaven knows), but it's common practice for British shows to be edited down (sometimes very clumsily) for less malleable North American time-slots.

Apart from some story-lines being dropped rather unceremoniously (possibly due to editing), I found the plot engrossing and was not bothered one whit by the cause of of the pile-up. I liked the dreamy and haunting final shots of the drivers proceeding safely in the alternate reality of the dead insect.

I found the Star Trek twist quite delightful, and a nice switch from the plethora of pedophile plots of late.

Looking forward to the second installment of Whitechapel, though I imagine I'll be looking away quite a bit.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Persephone: I'm actually really pleased you so enjoyed Collision - partly because I'm always thrilled at anyone enjoying a drama in which DH features so prominently, but also because it is nice to enjoy stuff.

I fear that part of my rather grumbly reaction may have been drawn on not being 100% well for it and by 10pm Friday I was just running out of energy. Grouch grouch.

But empathies on the sometimes shoddy editing practices; that ALWAYS really concerns me regarding dramas moving countries for broadcast and I do think its a problem. Rather like word limits for essays (sorry, I have my work hat on), they're obviously important but it can feel like you're making something fit the limitations of format rather than allowing it to breathe its natural shape/structure. Personally, I think if another country wants something originally made/broadcast elsewhere they should as much as possible adapt to accommodate it - rather than hacking about to make it fit their quirky schedule structure.

And that POV applies just as much for imports TO the UK as it does for exports from the UK to elsewhere. Respect the makers structure! they made it that length for a reason!

there probably are examples, but I'd be amazed if it was so extensive in happening in print fiction as it does in TV ("sorry, we decided to chop chapters 4-6 and edited the ending accordingly because we haven't got room for those characters in the X pages we need this book to fit in for our US edition" GRRRRRRRRR)