It’s long been my belief that the British film and television industries make superior period drama (with possibly only the Aussie’s our equal), and Peaky Blinders proves my viewpoint loudly and assuredly.
Peaky Blinders is magnificently acted, sumptuously shot and perfectly detailed, having won a ton of awards right across the board such as a string of Baftas for best Director (Otto Bathurst) and Best Photography and Lighting.
Best Actor and Actress, Best Costume Design and Judges awards have been bestowed across no less than five other film and television governing bodies. It has plenty of accolades, of that there is no doubt.
The look and feel of Peaky Blinders is utterly fantastic, but that tells us nothing of the driving force of the piece: The story.
When is Peaky Blinders set?
Peaky Blinders is set in post World War One Birmingham and it follows the fortunes of one family; the leaders of a relatively middling gang (the titular Peaky Blinders) called the Shelby’s.
Based on factual gangs that were operating in the Black Country at that time, every detail is crafted just so: how they operated, how they spoke, and how they lived is all absolutely spot-on. Truly, it was grim up North, and one can positively smell the grinding poverty and desperation of the working poor.
What is Peaky Blinders about?
The show begins with the return from the trenches of the three Shelby brothers, Tommy (Cillian Murphy), Arthur (Paul Anderson), and John (Joe Cole). They are not the same men who went away three years earlier. As tough as they were before, it seems that they are now made extremely dangerous by the abject horrors of trench warfare. The writer (Steven Knight) takes great pains to explain that these men went through the lowest circle of hell.
They were sappers (trench diggers) throughout, and in addition to the nightmare that was the war in France, towards the end they were cut-off behind enemy lines, in a cave-in, and left for dead. They maintain that they, in fact, died there, or at least a significant part of themselves and that everything afterwards is a bonus. They all of them feel that they are on borrowed time, so to speak, with Arthur having the worst of it exhibiting profound signs of PTSD: terrible mood swings, dark depression and suicide attempts.
This furious edge gives them a ruthless advantage over the other gangs in the area, and they proceed to cut a bloody swathe through them, absorbing and taking over where they can, burning without mercy where they can’t.
Peaky Blinders is entirely compelling viewing. This is because of the captivating and believable performances put in by the cast. Cillian Murphy is fearless and brooding, Arthur a wild torrent of anger, John cold and cocky. Every single actor and actress puts in a commanding performance, and if the Shelby men are scarily convincing, the woman left in charge while they were at war is completely terrifying.