Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983 (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
Two girls have gone missing in 1969 and 1972 and a third child is found dead in 1974. In 1983, Hazel Atkins is taken by the same murderer which makes her the most recent victim. Detective Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey) is assigned to the Atkins case but he struggles to remain focused due to the guilt that plagues him. In the past, he has been involved with corruption and it is finally catching up with him. Meanwhile, John Piggott (Mark Addy), a solicitor, meets with a convict, Myshkin (Daniel Mays), who confessed to the aforementioned kidnappings and murder but is now wishing for an appeal.
The final chapter of the “Red Riding Trilogy,” collectively based on David Peace’s novel, “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983” moves at a brisk pace, certainly faster than its predecessors, but something is lost along the way because the big revelations feel rushed and there is not enough detective work shown on screen for us to be able to connect the dots without relying on the screenplay to spoon-feed information. For a heartbreaking and scary case about child abduction and murders, it is not at all an engaging experience—passable but not a work that stands out even among the trilogy.
The primitive interrogation techniques are well-shot. I felt like I was in that dark room as cops force confessions out of suspects. They do it because they feel pressure to get answers from their superiors and the media. The picture does a good job in communicating that the cops believe what they are doing what is right—actions that will lead to the truth. On the contrary, the case ends up becoming more complicated, unnecessarily so, due to false confessions. These confessions are akin to desperate gasps of air of a drowning person. It is unsettling to watch but you cannot help but observe it all unfold.
Some facts within the investigation remain vague which leaves room for doubt and unanswered questions. Perhaps this might not have been a problem if the material avoided to offer straightforward answers during the final fifteen minutes. One that bothered me especially is the medium (Saskia Reeves) who claims to see the dead girls. From its predecessors, it is shown that the crimes have been well-documented in the papers. If so, why does Jobson entertain the idea that Ms. Wymer can communicate with spirits? If Jobson were written smart, he should have recognized that a lot of what she claims to have learned most likely have come from old newspaper articles. In addition, the medium’s histrionics are phony. “She’s suffocating! It’s dark!,” she wails.
Subplots are introduced but each one does not get enough time to develop. Two of the most underdeveloped subplots involve the past of Piggott’s father which casts a shadow on the son’s work and a gloomy young man (Robert Sheehan) constantly looking out the window of trains. They are integral to the final act but it is off-putting that these strands seem to have thrown into the pot in the last second before being served to us. Not enough time has passed for their flavor to be released.
“Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983,” directed by Anand Tucker and based on the screenplay by Tony Grisoni, is not a terribly constructed mystery-thriller, though at times it is convoluted, but it neither demands our attention nor does it dare us to seek answers of our own. Even if seen through eyes and brain on auto-pilot, the rewards remain few and far between.
Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★
The West Yorkshire police hired Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine) to help out with the Yorkshire Ripper investigation. Initially, the police were cooperative with Peter, giving him everything he wanted like unlimited access to files relevant to the case and even bringing in people he trusted such as John Nolan (Tony Pitts) and Helen Marshall (Maxine Peake), the latter with whom Peter had an affair with. I enjoyed this film more than “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974” because it actually focused on the investigation of the Ripper. As a procedural, I thought it worked because we had a chance to observe the protagonist interviewing potentially important individuals that might lead to the identity of the killer. The pacing was slow and the tone was darkly morose but there were enough rewards dispersed throughout to keep me guessing. But as Peter got deeper into the investigation, it seemed as though the West Yorkshire police force slowly but actively hindered the progress of Peter’s assignment. It was interesting that main character had to battle corrupt men in position of power but at the same time having to face a faceless killer in which the only lead he had were some handwriting and a voice. We even had a chance to learn about Peter’s home life involving the wife (Lesley Sharp) being unaware of her husband’s infidelity and their struggle to bring a child to the world. It was easy to want to root for Peter to succeed, despite his indiscretions in his romantic life, because he genuinely and eagerly wanted to bring justice for the women who were murdered. More importantly, he was not willing to be corrupted. But I had important question about the victims. In the first film, children were the victims but, in this installment, it was more about women. In fact, no one mentioned anything about the child murders, so I found that a bit odd and somewhat confusing. Perhaps the inconsistency was done on purpose and the third movie would help to explain everything. Based on the novel by David Peace and directed by James Marsh, “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980” was a strong follow-up to an interesting case about monsters in various positions of power. It posed several interesting questions, one of which was who we should fear more: the blood-thirsty killer or the people who we were supposed to trust to protect us? The killer may have killed a dozen or so but how many have the cops murdered in cold blood to prevent the truth from being exposed?
Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
Andrew Garfield stars as Eddie Dunford, a journalist on a quest to solve Britain’s infamous Yorkshire Ripper case. When a girl was found dead with wings stitched onto her back to make it seem like she was a fallen angel, everyone knew that the murder wasn’t a typical one. Everyone talked about it but no one was willing to come forward to the authorities or members of the media because they feared for their lives. I expected this film to be a procedural because it was such a popular case so I was a bit underwhelmed when it turned out to be otherwise. While I did enjoy the way the picture was shot and the dark undertones just boiling above the surface, it could have used a laser-like focus on the case at hand while exploring important questions such as why Eddie’s friend and fellow journalist (Anthony Flanagan) was killed. Instead, our protagonist became entangled in an unethical affair with the murdered child’s mother (Rebecca Hall), who may or may not know more than she lets on. I could have been more invested in the material if it had taken the time to explore and demonstrate how strong the bond was between Eddie and his friend. While Hall was strong as usual, the romantic angle grew stale pretty quickly because their relationship didn’t evolve. The script hinted at something insidious the more passionate the couple became but there were far too many scenes in the bedroom when the two would get intimate. Knowing that Eddie was keen at solving the mystery surrounding her daughter’s gruesome murder, I would think that she would encourage him to go deeper into the case and not into her. The film also consistently touched upon the corruption of the cops, journalists, and businessmen. Were they protecting each other because everybody wanted money or was it because something about the murder was mishandled in some way? There is no definite answer because the movie was too busy asking questions. The more questions were asked, the more frustrated I became because a lot of information thrown at us just did not make a lot of sense when I applied it to the big picture. Since this is the first of the trilogy, I am hoping that more of my questions will be answered the deeper I get into its mythology. Based on the novel by David Peace and directed by Julian Jarrold, “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974” left a lot to be desired. The performances were engaging and the look of the movie reflected the times. It just needed more editing so it focused more on the actual case and less about our protagonist’s secondary adventures.