Wallander: Sidetracked, Firewall, One Step Behind (DVD)
Kenneth Branagh plays Swedish detective Kurt Wallander in three new crime dramas based on the best-selling books by Henning Mankell, an international publishing phenomenon with over 25 million copies sold worldwide. Sidetracked, Firewall, and One Step Behind follow Inspector Kurt Wallander - a disillusioned everyman - as he struggles against a rising tide of violence in the seemingly sleepy backwaters in and around Ystad in beautiful southern Sweden. Baffling crimes and apparently motiveless murders lead to surprising and shocking discoveries in these Swedish noir thrillers.
Giving a rare and welcome television leading role to Kenneth Branagh, Wallander is about a Swedish detective who is brought to the screen in three 90-minute adventures based on the hugely popular novels by Henning Mankell. Branagh takes the title role, and he's Wallander's leading asset. His performance is grumpy and downbeat, and he skillfully underplays his role. It's a terrific performance from a very strong actor. Around him, mysterious and shocking crimes are taking place, and it's his job to get to the bottom of them. He's aided by a good, if unspectacular, supporting cast, although nods must go to Sarah Smart and Tom Hiddleston. Filmed on location in Sweden, yet still more British in feel than you'd perhaps expect, Wallander nonetheless is intelligent and at times gripping drama. It's well made, too, with some stylish directional choices that may isolate some viewers, but do enhance the production. There's clearly been a lot of thought and planning involved here, and it pays dividends. That said, Wallander is likely to be a divisive show. It eschews quite a few of the conventions of the genre, instead playing things more downbeat than we've become accustomed to. Naturally, this is also what strengthens it. And, combined with Branagh in excellent form, Wallander at its best is both brilliant, and a little bit different, and it's very much worth checking out. --Jon Foster