Broadchurch, North France
Pitched as France’s answer to Broadchurch, Witnesses provides a strong detective miniseries hampered slightly by a wholly preposterous story which takes personal stakes to a whole new level.After a number of dead bodies are dug up and arranged in a show home with personal effects all pointing towards a retired – but celebrated – police detective, it’s not long before the lead detective assigned, Sandra Winkler, seeks the help and guidance of this seasoned veteran, Paul Maisonneuve, who himself has only just recovered from the physical and mental stress of a near-fatal car crash, itself coming off the back of the tragic death of his wife.When the legend becomes involved in the case, however, cracks in his own past begin to show, and Sandra – going through her own difficulties, both personally and professionally – finds that her former mentor may have a much more personal stake in the proceedings than he is prepared to admit.
Over the course of the six episodes of Witnesses, each of which ends with a successively shocking cliffhanger of sorts, whilst the characters become inherently more interesting through slow reveals, the story becomes increasingly convoluted. Elaborately staged murder scenes, decades-old vendettas, exquisitely plotted revenge; it’s the stuff of the Count of Monte Cristo, however it threatens to induce rolling eye syndrome as the arcs are aligned.
With strong performances from the two leads, and solid support – as well as a superb opening track by Tricky, arguably better than the series deserves – there’s plenty to enjoy here, however the end result is hackneyed, clichéd and overly contrived, with even the cold North France setting, whilst ostensibly unusual, reminding us of classic films like Get Carter, to which a series like this arguably also owes a debt.
Often compelling but also quite contrived, Witnesses is another enjoyable foreign detective drama.
Well-cast and strongly-acted, Witnesses provides an initially intriguing, at times even compelling story which ultimately comes apart when trying to pull it all together. Contrived and forced – and all too personal – it stretches credibility in its attempt to show that all roads lead back to the same one person. Still, there is promise, certainly in the leads, and so it comes as little surprise that it’s already being considered for a (undoubtedly unnecessary) US remake. Thankfully fans can at least look forward to a second season which is supposed to go into production soon.
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