Red Riding 1974
Red Riding 1980
Red Riding 1983
Directed by Julian Jarrold, James Marsh and Anand Tucker
Starring Andrew Garfield, Paddy Consadine, Mark Addy and David Morrissey
Goes well with: The Godfather, The Sopranos, Chinatown
Film events like the Red Riding trilogy don't come along very often. Let me explain. All three films are based on David Peace's novels, and they've all been written by Tony Grisoni. They're set in 1974, 1980 and 1983, and in all of them, something is rotten in the English town of Yorkshire. The films are made by different directors, and various cast members appear in one, two or all three. And each is designed to stand on its own, but the best way to see them is all together. Sure, it's a five-hour movie marathon, but the real accomplishment is how they interact with one another. Each film informs the other two, creating a dark and complex and utterly immersive cinematic experience movie fans rarely get these days.
Andrew Garfield is Eddie Dunford in 1974, a rookie crime reporter for the Yorkshire paper who starts connecting the dots after a little girl goes missing. Eddie is young and cocksure—this is the '70s, after all, and everyone drinks, smokes and gets busy. But as he delves into the darkness of a serial child killer, Eddie finds himself running up against a police firewall that pulls no punches. He's trying to make his mark, but he's finding that there are powerful people who don't want him snooping around. And as he gets closer to the truth, he realizes that what he's investigating isn't the murder of children at all but, rather, a much bigger, dark conspiracy.
The second film is set six years later. Paddy Considine is Peter Hunter, an officer brought in to find the Yorkshire Ripper, the serial killer who's been preying on the town's women for years. The Yorkshire police force, which has had no success tracking him down, has no love for Hunter, who was sent in to investigate the events that wrapped up the first film. Like Eddie before him, Peter and his team run into walls everywhere they turn, but what's remarkable about 1980 is how it builds on its predecessor, offering a new perspective on events that have already occurred and expanding characters you thought were minor.
In 1983, another little girl goes missing, in a manner that's eerily reminiscent of 1974. This prompts lawyer John Piggott (Mark Addy) to take on the case of a mentally disabled man coerced into confessing to the crimes nine years back. As we learn more about characters we've only briefly encountered over the years, we understand more clearly how and why they act the way they do. And perhaps most importantly, we gain an even broader view of the whole stinking picture. Dark seeds were planted in 1974, and by the time 1983 rolls around, they've sprouted and grown healthy and strong, and it's questionable whether or not anyone can cut them down.
Now, these are just the broad strokes. All three films have extensive casts, and no one, not even the protagonists, are truly innocent—because even though the trilogy deals with grisly crimes and horrific bloodshed, it's really about the nature of corruption and conspiracy and how the two play out over the long term. It's an intense, ambitious project, both for the filmmakers and for an audience. But the end result is truly a sum of its parts. As individual pieces, the films have their own weaknesses, and the very end of the final film doesn't necessarily fit. But we live in an age when running times are carefully calculated to get the most number of screenings into a multiplex.
Films as well-written and well-conceived as this trilogy are rarely made, and you virtually never have the opportunity to spend a day watching something like this. Look, if you want to go to the movies for pure escapism, that's fine. But if you're looking for a riveting day-long cinematic exploration into the basest of human attributes, then do yourself a favor and clear your calendar—the Red Riding trilogy screens at the Ken Cinema from Friday, March 12, through 18.
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