Adaptations of popular television shows into films are a reasonably rare occurrence these days, but even rarer are television films that later get a theatrical release. This was however the case for the Red Riding trilogy produced by Channel 4 that was so acclaimed that all three films were released in theatres in the US in 2010. Based on the four novels by David Peace, the Red Riding film trilogy brought together some of the UK’s best character actors in a neo-noir crime investigation thriller set over the course of three specific years. The first instalment is Red Riding: In the Name of Our Father 1974.
Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) is a young journalist who returns to his home in Yorkshire after an unsuccessful stint in London. Working for the Yorkshire Post, he is sent to get investigate the disappearance of a young girl. His trail of investigation leads him to the mother of a previously abducted child, Paula Garland (Rebecca Hall) and through her to local businessman John Dawson (Sean Bean) who is trying to get planning permission to build a shopping centre. Discovering corruption running through the police and local newspaper, Eddie continues to investigate even as his life is threatened by the facts he uncovers.
Depending on who you ask, the film noir genre was developed post World War II or as early as 1927. A unique style of shooting a film rather than a bona fide genre in its own right, a film noir engages cynical attitudes, femme fatales, moody atmospheric shots, betrayal and criminal intrigue. Since the 1970s, films created in this style have been dubbed neo-noir and Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 falls comfortably into this genre. The shots are often drained of colour causing the environment to seem desolate and unwelcoming, which helps to create a sense of isolation for the protagonist.
Garfielddoes a good job in creating the idealistic, but flawed Eddie and as obstacles and betrayals stack up against him, there is a real sense of doom and foreboding to the narrative. The rest of the cast is populated with some serious heavyweight character acting in the shape of David Morrissey, Sean Bean and Rebecca Hall. Each character is tied to the case in some underhand or monetarily driven way, which gives Red Riding: In the Name of Our Father 1974 a truly cynical view on the human condition.
Sadly so much effort is put into the stylistic elements that the plot becomes confusing and misguided. There is lots of exposition into characters motives, but little in regards the actual details of the case. This is left to the assumption of the audience, which causes a disorientating feeling that is excellent in parts, but serves to drag the film in others.