Arts, Features

REVIEW: ‘Collateral’ a compelling murder mystery that bites off more than it can chew

Carey Mulligan in the Netflix Original show “Collateral.” PHOTO COURTESY FABIO AFFUSO/ NETFLIX

Netflix continues to push the envelope with its original content, and new miniseries “Collateral” is no exception. The four-part series challenges audiences’ expectations for a typical murder mystery through an addicting and thought-provoking storyline.

The series, created by David Hare, writer of “The Hours” and “The Reader,” is about a seemingly random murder in London that spirals into a political commentary on the way immigration is handled in the country.

A Syrian refugee and pizza delivery man is shot while out on a run by an expert assassin, leading detective Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan) to suspect that this shooting is much more than a random act of violence.

What follows is a unique thriller concerned with the way immigrants and refugees are treated in Britain and throughout the world, and how people’s inherent perception of foreigners causes people to see them as “different,” not as human beings first and foremost.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of “Collateral” is that it’s a murder mystery where we aren’t interested in who the killer is. In fact, the killer’s identity is revealed in the first episode and they become an important character throughout the rest of the series.

The show is really about why the murder happened in the first place, and which of the many characters that appear throughout the storyline are actually involved.

Most television series about crime spend the vast majority of the time following two detectives as they hunt down leads just to throw them out, which means that most of the story becomes unimportant to the audience by the time the killer is found.

In “Collateral,” the audience follows the detectives, the killer and other people connected to the story, so we feel as if we are getting the full scope of the events. This allows the show to focus on a variety of different themes within the subplots and exterior characters instead of spending all its time on law enforcement.

While immigration in the UK and the dynamic conversation around it is the main issue “Collateral” tackles, it also deals with sexism, mental illness, homophobia and religion.

Of course, some of these themes are explored more deeply than others. The series suffers from the fatal flaw of trying to discuss too much about the state of the world in such a small amount of time. Trying to comment on everything that plagues modern society is a tall order, and certain subjects don’t get the proper time and attention that they deserve.

“Collateral” has maybe 10 to 15 characters it deems important to the plot and rotates between their storylines continually. It goes without saying that some characters are far more interesting than others. Too many characters and too many subplots are a great way to slow down a story with a lot of unnecessary drama the audience does not really care about.

“Collateral” has a unique, captivating storyline at the heart of the series, which makes it an addicting crime thriller that captivates audiences with its suspense as well as its connections to what is going on in the modern world.

Where the series goes awry is that is tries to bite off a lot more than it can chew. Too many themes, characters and subplots slow down the main story, which is the driving force of the entire series. “Collateral” feels like a show that lacks focus. There is something compelling at its core, but it wastes so much time on unimportant details that it can be a chore to get through.

Overall, the series is worth the watch for its unique storytelling techniques and thought-provoking political commentary, but be prepared for a show that at times seems like it ventures to places it really has no business going.

One Comment

  1. Carey Mulligan is really terrific in the show, and it is worth watching for her performance alone. Also notable are Nathaniel Martello-White and one of my personal favorites, Nicola Walker. The script is really over ambitious, and could have been extended over more episodes to do justice to some of the issues raised. I think it was, however, better than the normal fare and worth the watch.