There is blood on the tracks in this week’s DVD round-up.
At the outset of The Tunnel (Acorn Media) a prominent French politician is found dead in the bowels of the Channel Tunnel – at the midway point where England meets France – and mismatched detectives Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane, Game of Thrones) and Elise Wassermann (Clemence Poesy, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) are called in to investigate the murder on behalf of their respective countries. The case quickly takes a disturbing turn, and it is apparent that the killer has an axe to grind with the governments of both countries. An increasingly elaborate series of killings force the French and British police into an uneasy partnership, but there is little indication of where he will strike next. Dubbed the ‘Truth Terrorist’ by sleazy tabloid hack Danny Hillier (Tom Bateman, Da Vinci’s Demons), the killer slowly unveils five so-called ‘truths’ about our morally bankrupt society, all the while concealing his true agenda.
Back in 2011 Danish/Swedish co-production The Bridge became the latest Scandinavian crime drama to win an audience in the UK, and its cryptic narrative and distinctly chilly mood proved to be a hit with viewers. A US/Mexican version – set between El Paso and Juarez – was hastily green-lit, while The Tunnel is an Anglo-French spin on the story. The argument against remaking foreign language hits for ‘lazy’ viewers is a strong one, but The Tunnel feels fresh rather than jaded, despite an over-reliance on the source material.
With strong performances from Dillane and Poesy in the lead roles – the former virtually unrecognisable from the dour role of Stannis Baratheon that he inhabits in Game of Thrones – The Tunnel stands on its own two feet and comes heavily recommended to anyone who missed out on the original. Rather than diluting The Bridge’s bleak vision, The Tunnel re-tools it for English and French sensibilities, and as a UK viewer, the dual-language culture-clash element feels far more satisfying than in the original. All in all, The Tunnel is a violent, uncompromising cop drama that tosses you a series of red herrings only to pull the rug out from under you time and time again.
In Last Passenger (Kaleidoscope) dashing surgeon Lewis Shaler (Dougray Scott, Mission: Impossible 2) catches the last train from London to Tunbridge Wells after a day out in the city with his young son. Lewis attempts to take his mind off his impending shift at work by striking up a flirtatious conversation with beautiful fellow traveller Sarah (Kara Tointon, Eastenders). However, the romantic mood is soured when the train races past his stop leaving Lewis and a handful of other passengers at the mercy of a psychotic hijacker with a death wish. As the unlikely group bicker over what to do next, Lewis finds himself thrust into the role of unwilling hero…
Frustrated that his Last Passenger script was languishing in development hell, director Omid Nooshin took matters into his own hands and cobbled together a rudimentary trailer for £500. This calling card caught the attention of leading man Scott – who said it reminded him of Hitchcock – and a number of high profile backers, such as Pathé, the British Film Institute (BFI) and Pinewood Studios. Disappointingly, the finished project is unable to justify the excitement surrounding its genesis, with the tense moments too sporadic to build up a true fear of dread. Flimsily sketched out characters and a stodgy, exposition-heavy script do little to further the film’s cause, and the best ‘character’ is arguably the creaky old train at the film’s core. Despite a few neat moments, for long spells Last Passenger felt as boring as my daily commute.