Black Mirror DVD Review
Starring: Rory Kinnear, Lindsay Duncan, Daniel Kaluuya, Jessica Brown-Findlay, Rupert Everett, Toby Kebbell, Jodie Whitaker.
Running Time: 153 Mins.Certificate: 15.
Photograph: Giles Keytes/C4
Charlie Brooker is fast becoming the Nigel Kneale of the 21stCentury. A bold statement there, but one that is most definitely true. For those not in the know, Kneale was possibly one of the most intelligent and thoughtful authors working in television during the 1950s and right up to the late 90s, producing ground breaking science fiction and fantasy programmes such as THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, THE STONE TAPES, and THE YEAR OF THE SEX OLYMPICS. These stories happened to be set in worlds not quite like our own, yet cleverly reflected and commented upon the concerns and fears that were commonplace in our society, something Charlie Brooker has succeeded in replicating in his own writing.
Brooker’s 2008 zombie-horror mini-series DEAD SET was at first glance a dumb, gimmicky gore-fest for the E4 Halloween audience, and yet turned out to be an intelligent and engaging look at our attitudes towards television and reality TV (it also had some awesome gore FX sequences, brilliant laugh out loud moments, and scenes of pure, spine-tingling terror). Fast forward to 2011, and he’s done it again with BLACK MIRROR, a TWILIGHT ZONE-style anthology show that provides laughs, shocks, and above all, excellent social commentary on our modern technology driven age.
The first episode, ‘The National Anthem’, is a superb little political thriller that examines social networking and our addiction to watching life unfold upon a screen. Dark, twisted, and yet strangely insightful and revealing is the best way to sum up what is possibly the highlight of the entire series, which features a fantastic script from Brooker and a wonderful central performance from Rory Kinnear as an ultimately doomed Prime Minister.
That’s not to say that the remaining episodes are bad. In fact, each episode is on the same par as the others (i.e. excellent). ‘15 Million Merits’ (co-written by Brooker’s wife Konnie Huq) flawlessly veers between stark, dystopian future shocker and beautiful, understated love story, giving us a window into Mr Brooker’s lesser seen romantic side, whilst at the same time highlighting how the mass media, and in particular TV talent shows, can take something meaningful and pure, and package it into something ugly, bland and generic. Followers of Brooker will have heard this little rant of his before, and the script is hardly subtle in its approach during the story’s denouement, but it’s both the excellent performance of Daniel Kaluuya and the standout direction of Euros Lyn that turns the entire episode into a visual metaphorical masterpiece.
The final instalment, ‘The Entire History of You’, from PEEP SHOW scribe Jesse Armstrong, is an intriguing premise that sadly gets a tad predictable towards the end. However, it’s redeemed by the fact that it’s a character piece first and foremost; it examines what would happen if we had the ability to save and replay our own memories over and over. Keeping the story centralised on a small domestic situation as opposed to exploring the entire society of this fictional world keeps the story interesting and engaging, and the few little twists and turns keep things moving along at a brisk pace. Sadly, it does lack Brooker’s trademark wit, and ultimately suffers as a result. It’s still a superb piece of television, and is directed with a wonderful low-key approach that suits it down to the ground.
Overall, BLACK MIRROR is a superb, shocking, and engaging series that is extremely relevant to our times; highlighting the social wrongs of technology whilst having a bit of dirty, nasty fun with the possibilities at the same time. It’s not all laughs, and some may find the series hard to stomach, but if you have it in you to watch it all in one sitting, it’s a rewarding watch that’ll have you deep in thought way after its over. Much like Nigel Kneale’s sublime television plays used to do back in the day…
Extras: A wonderfully upbeat 15 minute interview with Charlie Brooker is both funny and informative, whilst the interviews with directors Otto Bathurst and Euros Lyn (18 minutes in total) are short on behind the scenes info, but do allow a brief window into the ideas and visions the directors had for their respective episodes There’s also a short smattering of deleted scenes (6 Mins), which are nothing to write home about, plus a selection of downloadable script PDFs. The lack of commentaries is a huge disappointment.