Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Fall

(UK, 2013)

There were two seasons of this show set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the second one in 2014. If I had been watching it as it came out I think I might have felt cheated by the first season, as there was very little resolution. The end of the second season, however, was quite satisfying, and left little room for a third …

Gillian Anderson is a police detective called in from London to work on a high profile murder. It doesn’t take her long to tie it to two other stranglings, give the local cops the one thing they dread most, and usually try to resist: A serial killer. But the evidence is compelling, so a task force is formed, going all out with every tool of a modern cop shop.

This is not a whodunit. We know who the strangler is from the first ten minutes or so, and he’s a dilly, not like anyone I can recall from the crowded ranks of cinematic serial killers. He is played by Jamie Dornan, a damn good performance. He is cool, calculating, smart, all things we have seen in serial killers before. But he is married and has two young children that he really loves. He is a grief counselor, of all things, and he’s not bad at it. He is truly angry at a violent man who is lashing out at his wife because their child died. He goes the extra mile for her, even putting his job in jeopardy. It is fascinating to watch the tension between this loving father and the raging beast inside him.

It becomes a cat and mouse game, with Anderson trying to get inside his head and prevent further murders. But she knows that with this kind of sexual compulsive killer, the intervals get shorter and shorter, and the violence escalates. Then he takes a hostage …

This is not a very bloody film, though there is sexual violence. The attraction here is cerebral, detective against criminal. Anderson’s performance is almost too restrained, but not quite. I never saw The X-files, so I don’t really know what else she can do, but she handles the English accent very well. You would never guess she is from Chicago. (I see that she lived in London from shortly after her birth until the age of eleven, which probably helped.) All in all, the thing is refreshingly understated. I enjoyed it.