Foyle's War is the rare mystery series that does more than plop a good detective into the middle of a decorative and bygone era. Created by writer Anthony Horowitz, Foyle's War makes profoundly resonant use of British society in 1940, a terrifying time in which the threat of an Axis assault on England disrupted ordinary life in often horrible ways, from the resettlement of city children (into the care of rural strangers) to a spike in xenophobia to a loss of personal freedoms. Against this heady backdrop is the near-solitary figure of Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen), a London investigator who would rather be fighting Hitler abroad but is stuck solving domestic homicides--generally sparked by wartime fervor--with the help of a plucky driver (Honeysuckle Weeks) and a steadfast assistant (Anthony Howell). Kitchen's magnificently measured performance and Horowitz's masterful grasp of the moral and dramatic issues of his battle-scarred milieu make Foyle's War a must. --Tom Keogh
Foyle's War Set 2
The critically acclaimed PBS series that weaves mystery with real historical events returns with four stories set in September and October 1940. Winner of the Audience Award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2003, the series stars Michael Kitchen (Proof of Life) as quietly enigmatic detective Christopher Foyle whose territory on the south coast of England is rocked by the chaos and danger of World War II.
Foyle's War - Set 3
Foyle's War - Set 3, another great suite of mysteries largely written by series creator Anthony Horowitz, finds Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) presented with his best opportunity to do what he has wanted to do since the outbreak of World War II: take a hiatus from sleuthing to join Britain's intelligence campaign against the Nazis. But there's a problem, as Foyle learns in Set 3's first mystery, "The French Drop." The circumspect detective investigates the suspicious death of a young operative whose father, a highly placed intelligence officer, objects to Foyle rooting around top-secret projects. "The French Drop" is particularly fascinating for Foyle's dangerous visit to a government operation that trains agents to employ assassination and dirty tricks in their work. Meanwhile, Foyle's right-hand man, Sgt. Milner (Anthony Howell), looks into an elaborate deception designed to throw Foyle and company off the case.
"Enemy Fire" is also a fine story, featuring Foyle's heroic son, Andrew (Julian Ovenden), a Spitfire pilot for the RAF and a man about to crack from combat stress. Andrew's problems are set against the possible murder of a despicable man whose carelessness as a mechanic caused the severe burning of another pilot. "Enemy Fire" also outs Andrew's romance with Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), Foyle's straight-arrow driver, to the unsuspecting Foyle himself. "They Fought in the Fields" marries several phenomena about Britain's wartime experience--among them the capturing of German pilots on English ground and the hard work of "land girls" (women put to work on farms)--in a thriller about the death of a farmer. A nice bonus: longtime widower Foyle grows interested in a woman who appears, despite a seemingly low opinion of men, interested in him. Finally, "A War of Nerves" deals with the hard work of "sappers," soldiers who defuse unexploded German bombs, and the sad reality of black marketeers who steal supplies badly needed for the war effort. Foyle also looks into, against his wishes and principles, the work of a socialist activist who makes a compelling case that the war is suppressing workers' rights. As with previous sets, this one is superb in its depiction of little-known facts about World War II's effects on civilian life in Britain. Michael Kitchen, heading a superb cast, continues to make Foyle one of the most interesting English detectives of all time, a figure of unimpeachable integrity. --Tom Keogh
Foyle's War - Set 4
The excellent Foyle's War returns with four episodes (each on its own disc) that first appeared on television in 2006 and '07. As before, the show's "history meets mystery" tagline pretty much sums it up, as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle solves murders and various other heinous crimes in and around bucolic Hastings, England, while World War II rages on at home and abroad. "Invasion," the first episode, marks the arrival of American forces in 1942, not long after Pearl Harbor. Not all the locals are thrilled to see them; disparaging remarks about the G.I.s showing up "late" are common, and many a stiff upper lip curls at the Yanks' brash, boisterous behavior. Thus when a Hastings barmaid turns up strangled at a dance arranged by the Americans to get to know their hosts, fingers are quickly pointed at the "invaders." But Foyle and his assistants, Sgt. Paul Milner (Anthony Howell) and driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart (the delightfully named Honeysuckle Weeks), have other suspects, and the detective, who comes on a bit like Columbo without the trench coat and other idiosyncrasies, manages to sort through them while somehow keeping the Brit-Yank enmity from festering and dealing with the deadly effects of the illegal "hooch" the barmaid and her employer were brewing.
This balance of deftly intertwined elements typifies a series in which each installment is essentially a 90-minute movie; in "Bad Blood," murder, romance both illicit and international, and the appalling specter of Britain's experiments with biological weapons like anthrax are all on the bill, while gambling, sabotage, personal tragedy, and yet more murder feature in "Bleak Midwinter" and "Casualties of War." The mysteries aren't especially confounding; what the quietly persistent Foyle does is less interesting than how he does it. And while it's set in wartime, the war and its impact on the English (who endure the death and injuries visited upon their young men, along with shortages of gas, electricity, and such) is more often a backdrop than a central focus. Each disc includes a several pages of often fascinating text about the "historical truth" behind a given episode, while other bonus features include cast filmographies and a brief "making of" documentary on disc 1. All in all, while it may not appeal to fans of the fast-paced, effects-laden cop procedurals popular on American TV, Foyle's War is a classy production, well written (by creator Anthony Horowitz), nicely photographed, and well worth the investment of both time and money. --Sam Graham
Foyle's War - Set 5
No one was unhappy when World War II ended, but the demise of Foyles War is something else entirely. For fans of this first-rate British murder mystery series, set against the backdrop of that epic conflict, Set 5 represents something of a reprieve; although Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) retired at the end of Set 4, circumstances force him to return to action in "Plan of Attack," the first of three 90-minute episodes (each on its own disc) offered here. But by the end of this set, the war is over and Foyle has eased back into retirement. Thats lamentable. Smartly conceived and often quite masterfully executed, this show will certainly be missed. "History meets mystery" has been the concept from the beginning, as the low-key (like Peter Falks Columbo, he knows much more than he lets on), unfailingly decent Foyle and his assistants, Sgt. Paul Milner (Anthony Howell) and driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), solve murders and various other crimes in and around bucolic Hastings, England, while WWII rages on at home and abroad. But this time out, the war provides much more than context, as the murders tend to be directly related to it. Whats more, Set 5 affectingly deals with combats heavy emotional psychological toll. Its a burden we see carried by the cartographer who cant bear knowing that his work is helping to kill innocent German civilians (in "Plan of Attack"); by the maimed former POW struggling to readjust to life at home, the teenager whose job it is to deliver bad news telegrams to soldiers families, and the Jewish doctor, a refugee from Poland, whose survivors guilt leads him down a very dark path (all three in "Broken Souls"); and even by Foyles own son (Julian Ovenden, in "All Clear"). OK, so the mysteries may not be all that mysterious--perceptive viewers will have little difficulty identifying the culprits. But with its multi-layered storytelling (the scripts were written by creator Anthony Horowitz) and fine production values (the cinematography, editing, and music are all excellent), Foyles War is a whodunit thats both a prime example of its genre and thoroughly successful on its own unique terms. Bonus features include a brief "making of" featurette and cast filmographies. --Sam Graham