Set on the border between El Paso and Juarez, The Bridge centers on two detectives, one from the United States and one from Mexico, who must work together to hunt down a serial killer operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border.
When a body is found on the bridge connecting El Paso and Juarez, two detectives, one from the United States and one from Mexico, must work together to hunt down a serial killer operating on both sides of the border.
“The Bridge” is a thirteen-episode American adaptation of the original Swedish/Danish murder mystery and thriller entitled “Bron/Broen.” Its story line centers around the gruesome discovery of a murdered female American judge, whose severed body was found on the Bridge of the Americas (Puente Internacional de las Americas) linking El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The upper half of her body had been placed precisely on the Mexican side of the bridge, whereas the lower half was situated exactly on the American side of the bridge. Both American and Mexican detectives are assigned to track down the vicious killer, and they struggle to work collaboratively in a complicated cross-bridge murder investigation. The performances of the lead actors, Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir, are absolutely outstanding, as are the performances of the members of the talented supporting cast. This American version of “The Bridge,” from the FX Network, is a decidedly intelligent, suspenseful, and gripping murder mystery and thriller, and I found it to be just as engaging and entertaining as the original Swedish/Danish production. “The Bridge” features superb plot and character development, as well as great acting performances, and it definitely merits a five-star rating, along with an enthusiastic recommendation.
I’ve not seen the Danish/Swedish original, but the US remake of the Bridge, reimagined to the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez border, more than stands on its own. While it has its faults, the Bridge is well-worth your time and stands above most other US television series in recent years, earning a place alongside Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead.
The pilot episode throws you right into the series, as the lights on the bridge between the two cities and countries suddenly go out. When power is restored a few moments later, a woman’s body has appeared in the middle of the bridge, half in each country. The lead Mexican investigator, Marco Ruiz (Demian Bechir), doesn’t connect at all with his quirky US counterpart, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger). Forced together as partners, they develop a grudging respect for each other.
Sonya has Asperger’s Syndrome (now part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder). It’s almost impossible for her to make social connections with other people and she tends to take conversations literally, unable to detect normal inflections such as sarcasm. She’s also deeply wounded by the prior murder of her older sister and trusts no one other than her boss, Lt. Hank Wade (Ted Levine). Marco’s an honest cop (a dangerous liability in Juarez) on his second marriage. He has prior family connections to crime boss and drug kingpin Fausto Galvan (Ramon Franco) but refuses to succumb to the corruption endemic to the Juarez police force.
As the Byzantine plot unfolds, the dead woman on the bridge turns out to be a US Judge. Or rather, the top half is the judge. The lower half (neatly bisected) is from a young Mexican woman originally found dead in a house full of bodies including that of Galvan’s dead brother. She’s thought to be one of the growing numbers of victims of “the Beast” – a serial killer preying on young women south of the border. On the US side, the judge’s killer taunts the police with messages about the disparity in resources devoted to solving the murder of the judge in contrast to the disinterest in the murders of so many Mexicans. But is this a political case, or is it a vendetta directed at law enforcement on both sides of the border? This is the dark heart of the mystery that plays out over most of the season.
The cast is uniformly excellent, from the top leads to relatively minor supporting players. Particularly praiseworthy are Bechir (a major star in Mexico heretofore unknown to me) whose acting chops simply dominate every scene in which he appears, along with Levine, who makes Lt. Wade the kind of supportive, dedicated boss we all wish we worked for. Levine is a consummate actor incapable of giving a bad performance over his long career. Also noteworthy are Matthew Lillard as a local reporter whose addictions and self-loathing leave him barely scraping by, Emily Rios as the junior colleague who still believes in him, and Tom Wright as a local eccentric who is a leading suspect, to name just a few of the standouts. Kruger does a decent job portraying Cross, but it’s somewhat of a one-note performance until the last few episodes when, rather inexplicably, her personality seems to change abruptly.
The writers, directors, set decorators, et al, do a superb job of capturing the muted colors, dust, and dirt of the border area, as well as giving an honest and sympathetic portrait of the enormous disparity in the standard of living south and north of the border, and how it is that the vast majority of Juarez citizens are simply decent men and women struggling to make a living and raise their families amidst the drug-related violence and disregard for human life the narco “terrorists” inflict.
The biggest problem with the Bridge is that there are so many major plot threads that it is hard to keep track of them all, and sometimes it feels like credible development of story lines takes a backseat to pulling them together as a whole. Indeed, the lengthy subplot involving Charlotte Millwright (Annabeth Gish) and a cross-border smuggler’s tunnel feels tacked on and dispensable. This is also true of the last few episodes of Season One: they’re pretty much a postscript teaser for the second season that a tougher production staff might have done better to cut altogether.
Despite these shortcomings, Season One of the Bridge is great television, better by far than the vast majority of what the major networks produce.
The above 4 names have been blowing me away for the last 8 or so weeks with their solid acting. Each character has baggage and each time there is a revelation in their character's story it is always a surprise. Diane Kruger is the breautiful blonde who came to notice as "Helen of Troy" in the Brad Pitt dud "Troy", however, she has since proved not to be just a German born flash in the pan and has done marvelous work in such films as "Inglorious Basterds" performing a hilarious, yet fatally lethal, for her, knock down, drawn out battle of fisticuffs with Christoph Waltz, in which her beautiful pedicured toes were sticking out of a leg cast as her character had already been wounded during another hilarious knockdown victorious shootout with the gestapo in the Beerhaus down the street earlier in the film. Then we have Damien Birchir who previously played Nancy's romantic,nefarious, Mexican lothario gangster husband in "Weeds" when his character was punked to death in a Mexican prison. Of course we have Ted Levine who played "Buffalo Bill" the wannabe lady, lady killer in "Silence of the Lambs", and then went on to play "Monk"'s police chief boss for years after that. And now we come to Annabeth Gish, "Wyatt Earp"'s late wife in the Costner failure, "Wyatt Earp", the drug addicted/sex crazy wife of the politician to be in "Brotherhood" on Showtime and probably could play anything Susan Hayward ever played. What we have here are people who are tried and true in their profession who can do anything you put before them be it comedy, high drama, suspence, satire, anything, which pretty much is called for in this fantastically written, produced, filmed, and plotted horror police procedural. Don't miss a minute of it. It all fits together. There's even a little bit of that "Big Love" plot going on somewhere in the background.
I know nothing about the Danish/Swedish version - never saw it, never knew it existed. Don't really know what's going on with the Mexican border. Don't know much at all about this subject matter.
What I DO know is that this is one of the most compelling, interesting, and well-done series I have ever watched. I cannot wait for the next episode. It's a great combination of crime drama, mystery, and thriller.
Diane Kruger is FANTASTIC in this role! As are all the other actors in this series. The casting was spot on. This series is indeed a great summer treat.