Creator: Steven Knight
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Sophie Rundle, Joe Cole
IMDB Rating: 8.8/10 Stars
Britain is a mixture of despair and hedonism in 1919 in the aftermath of the Great War. Returning soldiers, newly minted revolutions and criminal gangs are fighting for survival in a nation rocked by economic upheaval. One of the most powerful gangs of the time is the Peaky Blinders, run by returning war hero Thomas Shelby and his family. But Thomas has bigger ambitions than just running the streets. When a crate of guns goes missing, he recognizes an opportunity to advance in the world because crime may pay but legitimate business pays better. Trying to rid Britain of its crime is Inspector Chester Campbell, who arrives from Belfast to try to achieve that goal.
“Everybody around here, they want you to win this battle. You’re bad men, but you’re our bad men.”
Never has there been a more accurate summary of an audience’s relationship with the Shelby family. Set on the streets of Birmingham, Peaky Blinders explore a world dominated by gang wars, violence, and a slew of illegal activities. The Shelby family take center stage in this show as this working-class family rise among the ranks of society by manipulating the tensions and conflicts brewing among rival factions in and outside of Birmingham. It is an intellectually crafted story that has a sense of unpredictability that grabs the audience.
At the heart of this family is the enigmatic Thomas Shelby, who is a classic anti-hero. Cillian Murphy embodies Thomas Shelby in all his cunning brutality, but also in the quieter moments where we get to the man behind the Shelby business, a man haunted by his past. There’s a stillness in his performance that gives an air of unpredictability to Tommy, but it’s his eyes that are so telling. His actions are subtle, but the emotion behind them is evident. Thomas Shelby is a complex man and Murphy is the perfect man to bring this character to life.
While Tommy is undoubtedly the head of the family business, it is Polly who carries the heart of the family. As an aunt to the Shelby siblings, Polly is often the voice of reason and keeps the boys in check. Helen McCrory shines in this role, and it’s worth noting that Polly is just one of a slew of strong women in this show. Polly faces her own trials over the course of the series, but her loyalty lies to the family. Her fierce protectiveness over the Shelby family members makes her a formidable adversary.
The cinematography is continuously sharp and elegant, and the strong emphasis of colour on this bleak industrial backdrop makes for some stunning images. The set pieces and cinematography compliment each other greatly resulting in some visually striking moments. Accompanying is a brilliant modern outlandish soundtrack emulating this menacing atmosphere.
There is a reason this show has taken hold of the nation as the intelligent writing, sharp cinematography, and powerful performances from the cast all work in conjunction to create this sophisticated and riveting show.
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