Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Foyle's War" with Michael Kitchen (2002)

Michael Kitchen is everything you’d look for in a Police Investigator as he takes on the role of Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle in this multi-part PBS mini-series from 2002.  As the war with Germany wages on the other side of the channel, he is itching to get into the fight. That is, until he realizes the value he still holds in protecting the home front, where criminal schemes abound. With Germany only 30 miles away and advancing through Belgium; cornering the British at Dunkirk; there are people at home who would rather capitulate than fight. It becomes up to Chief Inspector Foyle, along with his Army Assistant, “Sam”, played by the lovely Honeysuckle Weeks, to solve these crimes, which range from outright murder, to sabotage.

This is the first UK edition, which is about 400 minutes long, spread over 4 episodes in Northern England. The stories are somewhat reminiscent of Agatha Christie, with an underplayed sense of mystery. Inspector Foyle and “Sam” are tasked with solving some very unusual crimes, even while dealing with their own personal problems. The Inspector is a widower, with a son who is joining the RAF. “Sam” is from a more rural area and her Vicar father wants her home.
From the very first episode, “The German Woman”, the viewer is drawn into the beautiful scenery of the English countryside, which serves as a placid background for the tumult of the war. When the German born wife of a local landowner is killed while horseback riding, suspicion falls on everyone in the town of Sussex. But careful sleuthing on the part of Inspector Foyle and “Sam” leave them to a corrupt system of evading the draft. The suspicion for the motive then falls on the dead woman’s husband as the cause of the murder. But that still leaves open the question of why his wife was murdered, and by who?

In “The White Feather” a young girl is accused of cutting the telegraph wires from the local military base; a crime which could see her hung. Although she does not deny committing the crime, the question still remains as to why, and for whom, she has placed herself in such jeopardy.
In the third story of the series, “A Lesson in Murder”, a conscientious objector dies while in police custody. Mystery abounds in this case, where class and privilege clash with the responsibilities of the ordinary man.

In the final episode of the 1st season, when Inspector Foyle and “Sam” are confronted with the stabbing death of a man in his home during a bombing raid , they find a statuette. That statuette brings them into contact with the curator of the local museum, who is tasked with packing away all of the art treasures under his domain for safe keeping.  But some things just don’t add up, and the foolproof scheme to keep the statuette hidden is foiled by the combined efforts of Inspector Doyle and “Sam”, as well as the occurrence of the air raid.

Filmed with great attention to detail, the countryside seems to leap from the screen with each story. The sets, and the wardrobes are both impeccable, giving the stories a true flavor of the times in which they take place. The stories were written by Anthony Horowitz and the filming was directed by Jeremy Silberston and David Thacker. The whole series is exactly what we have come to expect of the BBC; excellent writing and storylines which both inform the viewer, as well as make them think.

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