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 afterward 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.
Polly Grey (Nee Shelby) is played by Helen McRory and has such screen presence that she steals any scene she is in. She actually comes across as more uncompromising and hardcore than her male counterparts, which is no easy feat in this cast.
The woman moves through space likes she owns the world and you just don’t even question it, she commands the stage and draws the eye like a magnet. She is also, for an older woman, damn sexy.
Peaky Blinders pulls no punches when it comes to bedroom athletics too, with there being a fair amount of nudity, both female and male (I suspect this to be one of the main reasons my wife and more than a few of her friends watch the show, and to quote her; ‘he’s a lovely boy!’) with pretty frequent and fairly explicit sex scenes. It’s beautifully choreographed, though steamy, as is the violence (minus the steam obviously).
There is an energy to all the action that is exhilarating, in fact, an exuberance that feels real, like a life-or-death struggle would be.
The Shelby family’s fortunes are constantly on a knife edge, with the real possibility of them losing it all and with each successive season, the stakes get higher, as do the risks. As they continue their journey we meet some brilliantly realized characters, acted superbly by the supporting cast.
Sam Neill gives a riveting performance as Inspector Chester Campbell, a Belfast ex-Major who is as corrupt as he is vicious, and Tom Hardy is sublime in a recurring role as Alfie Solomon, a Jewish gang boss specializing in distilling. His comical insanity is a joy to watch.
How many episodes are in each season of Peaky Blinders?
Although we only get a paltry six episodes apiece, it seems that the juice of each season is distilled into one hundred percent pure rocket fuel. It’s a fully immersive roller-coaster of an experience and I dearly love it.
I shall be distraught when it has run its course but it has been announced for at least one more season, so there is a little more Black Country madness to come. It’s an absolute classic, a blinder in every sense of the word.
What do you think of Peaky Blinders so far? Let us know in the comments below.