The Peaky Blinders were a criminal gang
based in Birmingham, England during the late
19th century and, to a lesser extent, in the early 20th.
Allow me to impose a break from the insane reality of American electoral politics and invite you to take a fictitious trip back to Birmingham, England, 1919. The obvious heir to Coppola's Godfather epic, with a dash of DePalma's Scarface, mixed together with Soprano-style family values gone hopelessly and blissfully wrong, Peaky Blinders is easily one of the most entertaining, well crafted, expertly written long form series I've seen in a very long time!
I'd forgotten there was a genre called "epic gangster family saga" - yet here it is, the brainchild of writer/director Steven Knight (Locke, Dirty Pretty Things, and - yes - the creator of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but that's another story - 'Millionaire was his day job until the high end work took over).
The setup: Post World War I Birmingham, England was the devil's playground. An industrial town teaming with gangsters, corrupt cops, whores, and street urchins. Into this world comes Tom Shelby (back from the war in France) and his clan of marauding thugs with their equally heartless women. The family that kills together sticks together and over the course of three seasons (so far, two more have been announced!) we will witness the scrappy Shelby family rise from street scum to legitimate bourgeoisie.
To state that Tom Shelby and Michael Corleone resemble each other in their quest for respectability would be to understate things. They are alike in more ways than one. Conflicted men driven to preserve and enlarge their families, men disillusioned with the politicians and authority figures running their countries. Men - and women (equally important: the women!) - take their destinies into their own hands because a lifetime of submission had only brought more submission. Power is never relinquished voluntarily and Tom Shelby, more than anyone (except perhaps Vito Corleone and his son Mike!) understands this.
How can I describe Peaky Blinders' style, tone, rhythm, and pacing? Um...I can't. You have to see it for yourself. (It's on Netflix and I'm told Amazon). What I CAN convey are a sampling of images from the series. Oh, and let us now praise Cillian Murphy, Annabelle Wallis, Paul Anderson, Joe Cole, Helen McCrory, Sophie Rundle and Sam Neil, among other thespians, who bring a calculated restraint under which raw emotions fester till they are released, cathartically, by the narrative's beautifully structured plot lines. Every aspect of this series shines; art direction, camera work, lighting, wardrobe, and razor sharp editing choices; each discipline serving the narrative.
Special mention must be made of the film's music, a selection of contemporary tunes (Nick Cave did the opening theme!) set against period drama - makes things very modern while anchoring us in the past. Uncanny. I think I even heard a cut by the great Leonard Cohen in there. Five stars!
Steven Knight, the brains behind this unique and incredibly
absorbing and entertaining series. This man writes
compelling scripts like few in TV-land.