Suspense TV

Following on from THE INVESTIGATION, here are two more new TV series trading in suspense.

On SBS On Demand in six parts is Savages, a big, loud, brash, expensive, turbo-charged political thriller. Riffing on the attempted assassination of France’s first Algerian-descended President, and sweeping through a broad range of characters across a broad swathe of Paris, the show is desperate for your attention, and for the most part earns it.With its relentlessly swirling camera, its crowds, its chyrons and its colour, it demands that you keep up. Racism, terrorism, politics and family are the Big Themes and they all get a thorough work-out. Entertainingly in your face, it becomes increasingly compelling and surprisingly emotionally engaging if, unfortunately, a little predictable.

On Fox One, from HBO, comes The Flight Attendant,a far lighter, more comedic (and more commercial) take on suspense. Told over eight episodes, this energetic, relentlessly propulsive whiplash soufflé cares not a jot for race, politics or banal procedure, but an awful lot about entertaining you. And it does. Kaley Cuoco plays an American First Class flight attendant with a drinking problem who wakes up next to a one-night stand in a Bangkok hotel room… and he’s very, very dead. From there, it’s one spiralling crisis after another, in multiple cities, as she tries to figure out what happened while becoming an ever-greater suspect for the FBI, a target for the killer, and a moral dilemma for her brother. If Alfred Hitchcock had created a spin-off series for Samantha from Sex and the City it might have been this.

SAVAGES

SBS On Demand

All Six Episodes Available Now

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Fox One / HBO

All Eight Episodes Available Now

The Investigation


Malling should win awards-a-plenty for his work on The Investigation.

SBS On Demand

All Six Episodes Available Now

Tobias Lindholm is a screenwriting master – if not the master – of sombre, research-based, unflashy thrillers. Indeed, you could call his films and TV shows “anti-thrillers”, in the way they portray events steeped in all the trappings of suspense with methodical, procedural calm. Eschewing all the bells and whistles – attention-drawing camera moves, editing, music or histrionic performances – usually associated with this kind of content, Lindholm’s work comes across as bearing more weight and integrity than more sensationalised takes. When Lindholm tells a true story, you believe he’s telling you the truth.

His body of work includes A Hijacking (for my money, his masterpiece) and A War, both of which he also directed, The Hunt (directed and co-written by Thomas Vinterberg), TV series Borgen and Follow The Money, and new film, releasing in early 2021 in Australia, Another Round (also directed  and co-written by Vinterberg). There is an unimpeachable argument for Lindholm and Vinterberg to be considered Denmark’s finest screenwriting team, and for Lindholm to be considered one of the finest screenwriters in the world.

Now, The Investigation – all six episodes of which Lindholm wrote and directed – carries his no-nonsense, highly procedural style into the long-form prestige television space. Telling the incredibly strange true story of the investigation into the 2017 murder of journalist Kim Wall aboard an inventor’s home-made submarine, Lindholm doubles down on his trademark stoicism to highly engaging results. Embracing the arduous, painstaking, frustrating and often dispiriting nature of truly investigative police work, with its dead ends, red herrings, slippery witnesses, grieving relatives and endless cups of coffee in banal spaces, The Investigation is almost paradoxically suspenseful, because we realise that what we’re watching has so much more weight than chases, shoot-outs and other contrivances. The story is weird enough – and it is weird – for the storytelling to be as by-the-book as our chief homicide detective, played exquisitely by the great Søren Malling (Borgen, A Hijacking, A War, Follow The Money). This is very much the story of how a horrendous crime can impact on the investigating officer, and Malling wears his pain, grief and frustration under a mask as stoic as Lindholm’s visuals. It is a bravura performance of naturalistic restraint, and Malling will win awards for it.

Don’t miss this superb show, one of the year’s best. Outstanding.