Sunday, 19 February 2017
SS-GB - BBC TV review
SS-GB, one of the most renowned books by the justly renowned Len Deighton, was first published in 1978. The first episode appeared on BBC TV tonight, so it's taken a very long time to reach the screen, but it was definitely worth the wait. We were treated to a gripping, multi-layered storyline, packed with action but also including scenes that were poignant.
The premise is that Hitler won the Battle of Britain, and the action takes place in 1941 with the Germans in control of London, while a Resistance movement fights a desperate but apparently hopeless rearguard action. Superintendent Douglas Archer (Sam Riley) is called to investigate the murder of an elderly man in rather peculiar circumstances. A mysterious American woman approaches the scene of the crime, and Archer discovers that she is a journalist. But her interest in the crime is puzzling.
Archer is conducting an affair with his secretary, who is involved with the Resistance movement. He is a widower with a young son, and by the end of the first episode, his son's safety is under threat. He is also troubled by the arrival of a tough German police boss, which suggests that the murder he is investigating has sinister and far-reaching ramifications.
Part of the reason why I found this episode gripping is that the authors of the script, Robert Wade and Neil Purvis, have mastered the large-scale thriller, having written several James Bond films. And the acting is excellent. But the greatest strength is the source material. Along with John Le Carre, Len Deighton defined the British thriller in the second half of the twentieth century. He is a very exacting writer, and there is a depth to his work that one simply doesn't find in the majority of thrillers. I am very much looking forward to future episodes of SS-GB.