The other night I took a DVD of the 2010 film Edge of Darkness out to watch with Mum after visiting Dad in hospital. She thinks I am a lousy picker, so I defended and justified my choice by referring to the mid-80s TV series of the same name that has recently been rebroadcast in Australia by the ABC.
I’ve probably watched the TV series three times, including its first broadcast in Australia. It is superb TV. A work of art that mixes great writing with haunting imagery, brilliant acting, a wonderful cast, darkly atmospheric music and a complex and thrilling plot line that reflected its time (Thatcher’s England) but still retains contemporary relevance. The dialogue in the film was simply stunning, especially that which Joe Don Baker delivered as the CIA’s eccentric Darius Jedberg. I am sure that I looked forward to each episode as much in late 2010 as I did when they were initially screened in the mid/late 1980s.
One of the great things about the series was that hardly anyone, even the almost saintly Ronnie Craven (played by Bob Peck), was all good or all bad. The superb cast assembled for the series really helped with that impression. Each episode something about the plot surprised me or made me question who was really “right”. You were never spoon fed, nor given much assistance or any reminders about all of the seemingly insignificant but nonetheless important clues that were dropped everywhere.
Bob Peck thoroughly deserved his 1986 BAFTA best actor award for the series. His character was a magnetic but flawed hero and he had such an intoxicating voice. I was sad to read that he died of cancer at only 53 in 1999.
The TV series pulled two big strings for me.
Around the same time I was on exchange in England working as an intelligence analyst in a UK agency. It was an odd time and computers were not as dominant as they are today. In fact you hardly saw them. It was all a bit more like Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister. I can still remember writing out (by hand) a report on the arms trade and some conflict that I was not able to present in person because after I had written it I had to classify it at a level that was I was not cleared to read (because I was not a UK national). So the intelligence characters and references and the obsession with nuclear energy and weapons in the series were of particular interest to me and I reckon they got it all pretty right for a TV drama.
The other string came in the form of an item of Darius Jedberg’s clothing. In the mid-1980s I developed an obsession with the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. As a sport it was really still in its infancy and hardly anyone in England would have known about it. In two scenes, however, Jedberg is clearly shown wearing a prized finisher’s t-shirt. Who knows where that idea came from? I can remember phoning friends as soon as I saw it in sheer excitement. It says a heap about his character and at that stage a lot of those competing in that crazy event were people like Jedberg. I don’t think Joe Don Baker ever completed Ironman Hawaii, but I guess he may have. (I began racing Ironman triathlon in Australia in 1985, but didn’t qualify to race in Hawaii until 1988 and didn’t race there until 1989.)
So, to get back to the 2010 film now. The film had none of the above. Even though it runs for over two hours, they left so much out that even Ray Winstone could not save it. Amazingly, it has the same director as the series, Martin Campbell. 2/10.