On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds

TV Eye: Utopia

2013/ UK

Director(s): Marc Munden, Alex Garcia, Wayne Yip

Starring: Adeel Akhtar, James Fox, Paul Higgins, Neil Maskell, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Alistair Petrie, Alexandra Roach, Nathan Stewart- Jarrett, Oliver Woollford

British dramas and good British dramas are few and far between these days. Amongst the sea of shows that pour from the BBC and ITV the only things that stand out are ‘Wallander’ and ‘Luther’. And if we look at  Channel 4 the best thing they’ve put out in the last 5 years is ‘Red Riding’, they have also shamefully tried to cash in on the Game of Thrones market by producing ‘The Pillars of the Earth‘ and ‘World Without End’ but neither of these have been viable successes.

So it’s refreshing to finally have something worth watching and that is just as captivating as any film you will see this year and this show’s name is Utopia.

The plot focuses on several characters who are all fans of a cult underground graphic novel called funnily enough Utopia. The comic itself was written by a paranoid schizophrenic man who later committed suicide in a mental institution. The show opens with The Assistant and Arby (James Fox and Neil Maskell) brutally interrogating a comic book shop owner and his few customers, they are looking for the manuscript of Utopia and seem unstoppable in their quest to find it. Instantly from this we can deem that anyone involved with the graphic novel is no longer just a fan but is also in grave peril.

The reason for this being that there is a conspiracy theory surrounding the novel. Mainly to do with a man- made virus that causes degenerative disease. It seems that Arby and his assistant are being employed by the company that created the virus to hunt down and murder anyone who knows the secrets hidden in Utopia. This all happens against the backdrop of a political health scandal that surrounds Paul Higgin’s Michael Dugdale as he is bribed by the pimp of the woman he has impregnated to push through an approval for a vaccination. This is in trade that his secrets be kept from his wife. It seems that the secrets in Utopia run deep into the halls of power in government and industry and that these people are prepared to do anything to achieve their goals and keep their secrets.

Arby and his Assistant are absolutely terrifying throughout as they needlessly murder person after person. Anyone who has come into slight contact with the novel or even knows its title is sanctioned for execution with the various instruments kept in their big yellow leather bag… unless they can tell them where Jessica Hyde is. Be warned the scene when they eventually catch up with Wilson Wilson (Akhtar) is difficult to watch at times but also shows just how brutal you can be without going too far.

The beauty of Utopia is that it is a gripping and intense drama from an original story, that amidst all of the comic book re-boots and novel adaptations in cinema is a welcome breath of viewing fresh air. Episode 1 does enough to shock and entice your interest and leave you wanting more for Episode 2… the cliff hanger will have you well and truly HUNG.

All of the leading cast are excellent as well Akhtar as Wilson Wilson of ‘Four Lions’ fame is hilarious. Nathan Stewart- Jarrett from ‘Mis-fits’ is also very good in his part as is newcomer Alexandra Roach as Becky. Special note must also be given to Oliver Woollford as the rebellious Grant, who simply gains praise for being able to escape death on three separate occasions.

Utopia is a must watch and we here at On The Edge think it’s probably the best thing to come out of the UK for a long time. You can take your HBO and stick it up your… well you know… we have Utopia and its as good as anything out there.

5/5

-Josh Senior

Watch Episode One of Utopia on 4OD now: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/utopia/4od

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