Friday, 12 July 2013

Review: THE BRIDGE, 1.1 – 'Pilot'

Friday, 12 July 2013

written by Meredith Stiehm & Elwood Reid | directed by Gerardo Naranjo

Great television formats are huge money-spinners, and Scandinavian drama The Bridge (Broen if you're Danish, Bron if you're Swedish) is the latest to find itself honoured with expensive remakes in foreign territories. The show was a hit in its native lands when it debuted in 2011, and later formed part of the 'Danish Invasion' of subtitled programming on BBC Four (hot on the heels of the highbrow channel's successes with The Killing and Borgen). Broen/Bron concerned the discovery of a dead body on the border between Sweden and Denmark; then followed the ensuing investigation of two detectives from each country. The shared jurisdiction thus highlighting the differences between the two countries.

The premise lends itself perfectly to localised remakes by cooperating neighbours, and indeed there's an Anglo-French version coming soon from Sky and Canal+ called The Tunnel (for obvious reasons). But the first high-profile remake comes from across the pond, where the setting's become the US/Mexico border—specifically the Bridge of the Americas, where Detective Sonya Cross (Inglourious Basterds' Diane Kruger) finds herself having to work alongside Mexican counterpart Detective Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir) after the corpse of a woman is found laid 50/50 across the borderline.

I haven't seen the original so there wasn't anything in this pilot for me to compare it unfavourably to. The idea's the strongest thing about The Bridge, because it's hard to believe someone didn't think up this culture-clash scenario years before now, but I must admit the prospect of watching an American cop partnered with a Mexican didn't automatically fill me with excitement. I have a sneaking suspicion The Bridge will play better to its target audiences, who will naturally have more awareness or first-hand experience of the issues that lie beneath the surface of Mexico-United States relations. I only really have a basic working knowledge of the politics concerning America and Mexico, so almost certainly The Bridge will be an education for me in many respects..

Of course, good drama is good drama. While I didn't feel invested in what The Bridge was doing in mixing American and Mexican characters and police procedures, you can enjoy the basic idea of two very different people clashing professionally while trying to catch what turns out to be a politically-motivated serial killer. Sonya Cross is very rigid and formal (partly because she has Aspergers syndrome), while Marco Ruiz is more tolerant and relaxed.

There's a stereotype of Mexicans as lazy and ineffectual people, which this drama occasionally hints at—but never in a nasty way, because Ruiz comes across as the "normal one", with Cross presented as the "unreasonable one" much of the time. It's nothing revolutionary when you examine its constituent parts, as most cop shows are built around characters who are like chalk and cheese to each other, but that's no reason to look down on The Bridge. It has a style and approach that feels quite fresh, and I must admit I have almost no idea where the story will go—despite ultimately concerning yet another serial killer to catch.

Overall, while I wasn't wholly gripped by The Bridge, it grew on me as the hour passed by and some surprises in the second-half helped keep my attention. I especially enjoyed the late appearance of Matthew Lillard as a burned out reporter, with the actor giving a surprisingly good performance that's a world away from what he's best known for in Scream and Scooby Doo. It seems that hitting 40's going to do wonders for his career. You also can't go wrong with Ted Levine and a Texan drawl as Sonya's gruff boss, let's be honest, although it's a shame he's become typecast in such roles. Above all else, Demián Bichir had a great laid-back charisma that I'm certainly keen to sample more of. If the story behind The Bridge can keep ahead of the audience, coupled with these excellent performances, I dare say FX is onto another winner. Let's hope this remake won't fall into the same creative pit AMC's The Killing remake found itself in, after a similarly strong start.

10 July 2013 | FX