Critical Condition: The City & the City

The City & the City | SoHo, 9.30 Sunday

➢➢ “A four-part adaptation of China Miéville’s award-winning, sci-fi/detective-fiction hybrid, it’s about the murder investigation that ensues when a foreign exchange student turns up dead in the fictional European city of Besźel. Or is that the fictional European city of Ul Qoma? Or perhaps both at the same time? … The Handmaid’s Tale has already proved it’s possible to translate a richly imagined dystopia from page to small screen, but so far, this flat-footed adaptation has apparently been held up at the border.” — The Guardian.

➢➢ “This feels like last year’s SS-GB (the adaptation of Len Deighton’s novel starring Sam Riley) with extra lashings of gloomy cynicism. Director Tom Shankland has commuted between the seamiest and grandest parts of Manchester and Liverpool to put a face to Miéville’s crazy imagination. The language is a gift for scriptwriter Tony Grisoni, whose CV includes writing for Terry Gilliam and adapting David Peace’s Red Riding novels: this dirty-dark fantasy drama occupies an exact midway point between both.” — The Telegraph.

➢➢ “Whose idea [at the BBC] was it to put the decidedly trippy The City & The City on a Friday night? Presumably someone thought that viewers would benefit from being a couple of post-work drinks down before tackling this sky-high-concept sci-fi crime drama. That’s not to say it’s not good — I thought it was rather brilliant … Beautifully, the camera always seems to have something smudged on the lens (infuriating at first, to be honest), as if we would be able to see the full picture if only we rubbed our eyes and really looked. It could all fizzle into nonsense, but I am on tenterhooks ahead of episode two.” — The Times.

➢➢ “There are shades of old Hollywood classics like Chinatown or The Maltese Falcon … [fused with] Blade Runner, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta or 2008’s curious sci-fi fantasy Franklin. It’s a clever take on the genre, but would undoubtedly fail if the cast weren’t up for the task of balancing the life and death seriousness of the situation with the innate melodrama of the text.” — Evening Standard.

➢➢ “If this makes you think that The City & The City is yet another identikit crime drama, then you couldn’t be more wrong. The basic storyline may be thoroughly conventional; but only, it seems, as a deliberate counterpoint to the intriguing and highly imaginative strangeness of the setting.” — The Spectator.

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