Critical Condition: Secret City

Secret City | Netflix, from Tuesday

➢ “This ambitious Australian conspiracy thriller might end up being more popcorn-muncher than nail-biter, but it’s definitely worth checking out … Canberra has certainly never looked so malignant in the visual sense …  Secret City — which is based on not one but two novels by political journalists Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann – has an enormous amount going on plotwise, though not all of it is immediately immersive or convincing. That said, there’s more than enough of interest to drag viewers back again next week.” — Sydney Morning Herald.

➢ “Secret City eschews explosions and gunfights in favour of a creeping sense of menace, as a handful of characters and ‘coincidences’ become over more closely entwined. Tasked with unravelling the conspiracy is journalist Harriet Dunkley, played by Anna Torv, who proved her gift for elegant restraint in American sci-fi thriller Fringe and brings the same quality here … Unlike The Code, and many political conspiracy thrillers abroad, the portrayal of governmental inner-workings in Secret City is clearly the work of people who know their subject well – from the relationship between unions and the Australian Labor party, to the conflicts that exist between parliament and diplomacy.” — The Guardian.

➢ “Secret City’s story is well paced but by the numbers, the sense of narrative déjà vu distinguished a little by a classy and wintry aesthetic from cinematographers Mark Wareham and Garry Phillips. The show certainly looks the part … It’s too early to say whether Canberra (or ‘Canberra noir’) will become more than the flavour of the month, but it’s certainly good to see the national capital pried open a little and given some atmospheric heft.” —

➢ “Based on the novels The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code written by Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann, Secret City is a tale dripping with spies, international political relations, and pulls back the curtains House of Cards-style on Australian politics and power … While the comparisons to the Netflix drama are obvious it lacks of the tenor of a [Kevin] Spacey or a [Robin] Wright and the deeper, more sinister plot. The cast is very strong and the tale well told. The deliciously spooky opening titles show a Canberra that has never looked more intriguing.” — Decider TV.

➢ “The look of Secret City is hi-tech glossy, the camera work of cinematographer Mark Wareham sophisticated — he uses few crane shots or big camera movements, preferring to frame the actors up close with wide lenses include the Canberra backgrounds — but never at the expense of the performances … He and production designer Felicity Abbot also capture the brutalist architecture and public service feel and, as a consequence, their look is compositionally uncluttered … Canberra as a city has traditionally been regarded as a place to poke ridicule at or apologise for, but as this fine series suggests, maybe it’s time to take it seriously.” — The Australian.

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