I have been busy binge-watching this week and have had a marvelous time doing so. Let’s start with three foreign films from the recent past that caught my eye—and I’m so glad they did:
“False Flag” (Hulu) is an Israeli series from 2015. It’s an utterly fascinating story of espionage and international hijinks, with an ensemble of excellent actors, crisp scripts and brisk camera work. The set up? Five innocent Israeli citizens are accused of secretly being Mossad agents who kidnapped an Iranian diplomat while in Moscow. Who set them up? Why? And were they actually set up? The plot, convoluted and brilliant, keeps you guessing until the very surprising end. Excellent binge material. I challenge you to only watch one at a time.
“Talvar” (“Guilty”) (Netflix): The late, lamented Indian actor, Irrfan Khan, stars in and carries this 2015 film. Based on the true story of a heartbreaking miscarriage of justice, we watch in horror as the initial police work on a murder case is not only sloppy but misguided, through another set of police who are also off-base, until yet one more squad, this time headed by Detective Kumar (Khan) begins to make sense of what actually happened. While some of the earlier scenes verge on buffoonery, as the film continues, it takes on the seriousness needed to get the point across: initial assumptions can completely skewer the facts; that means innocent people suffer needlessly and—too often—tragically.
“The Tunnel” (Amazon Prime Video): If you happened to see the American/Mexican version of this French/British import, “The Bridge,” then some of the story might seem familiar, but I highly recommend watching the original. A riveting contest between the combined police forces of France and England and an unknown, horrifically clever person (or group) named the Truth Terrorist (TT) begins in the Chunnel with the discovery of a dead body that has been placed so that it perfectly dissects the border line between the two countries. Not only does the cat-and-mouse contest escalate with each episode but the destruction brought about by TT becomes more and more unsettling to the populace at large, creating barely-leashed chaos in both countries. The lead detectives, brilliantly played by England’s Stephen Dillane and France’s Clemence Poesy, have to work together and it’s not a good fit. Eventually, they are forced to adapt to each other and do. I have watched season one’s first nine episodes and have saved the last one until after I get my review in today, as a reward. There are two more seasons after this one. Oh boy!
“Upload” (Amazon Prime Video), from Emmy award-winning writer Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”), was highly recommended by our publishers, Karen and Arnold York, and they definitely picked a winner. Set in the near future, you can buy a plan that will let you live on after you die in a sort of luxurious heaven—if you arrange all the details before you die and if you have a whole bunch of money to make it happen. As it turns out, our hero, young and hunky Nathan Brown, wonderfully portrayed by Robbie Amell, is a brilliant computer programmer thrust suddenly into this new reality and not quite sure how to deal with it. Marvelous acting, writing and wacky and inventive plot twists—not to mention some in-depth themes—make this one a winner, for sure.
“The Great Escape,” a beloved oldie from 1963, rounded out my viewing week. Based on the true story of a daring escape by Allied prisoners from a Nazi prison camp during WWII, it’s nearly three hours long, slow by today’s standards but majestic in its impact. Steve McQueen and James Garner have so much charisma it’s ridiculous, and the supporting cast features a whole bunch of young actors who became famous later on. You can rent it on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play and more.