This is a rave (no spoilers) about Peaky Blinders, the BBC period drama set in post-WW1 Birmingham. It’s a beautiful, brain-tinglingly fresh historical recreation of an over-looked part of history (one which I especially love as it’s the time my grandparents were teenagers).
Set around a street gang on the up, it pulls a world of travellers/Gypsies/Tinkers, Fennians/IRA/Loyalists, Anarchists/Communists, London Italian/Jewish underworld (and post-War gender politics) into a strong narrative that is compelling and exciting.
It pits Cillian Murphy as the leader of the Peaky Blinder’s against Sam Neill’s weirdly sinister Ulster copper (complete with weirder accent) who has been sent by Churchill to sort him out (and what a great Churchill, always sitting in a chair and still talking down to everyone).
It’s part of the BBC’s stated intent to resist continually humping the corpse of Jane Austen (no matter how productive she continues to be), and it works so well as costume drama.
The clothes are just amazing, the sets (virtual and actual) rich and gorgeous, even when they are showing grinding industrial poverty. And the hair cuts… I want one!
As for the soundtrack… wow. Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Johnny Cash, while anachronistic, all fit perfectly (I believe PJ Harvey and Flood are in charge) both adding to and opening up the story, showing Baz Luhrman how it should be done (his unforgivably ham-fisted butchering of the 1920s classic The Great Gatsby has earned him a special place in period drama hell).
The theme song, Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, fits the story/themes/feel in ways which continually unfold as the series progresses, with lyrics and instrumentation that seem to have foreseen the story even though the song is from the 1990s (that the song references Milton’s Paradise Lost is perfect for post-Apocalypse 1919).
With only six episodes per season (there have been two with another coming next year) it cracks along but never feels rushed, and the acting and characters are outstanding.
As Thomas Shelby, the always wonderful Cillian Murphy leads the show with an impenetrable calm, while Helen McCrory as Aunt Polly (who ran the gang while the boys were at war) is more than a match for his acting chops (and may surpass him).
Tom Hardy as Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons also stands out on the intriguing filmic acting front. I could watch all of the scenes between Aflie and Tommy again and again.
And while Sam Neill is mad fun, that accent… I just can’t be sure if it adds or detracts (I suspect it adds).
There’s so much more I could rave about/discuss (the love interests are great actors, too) but best you enjoy it yourself.
Anyways, if, like me, you’re a history buff, love period/costume drama (and great storytelling) then give Peaky Blinders a try.
It’s great fun and you’ll get a killer Brummie accent to boot (probably best to avoid the haircuts).