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The Bletchley Circle(TV) (2012)
In 1952, four women who worked at the wartime code-breaking center, Bletchley Park, reunite to track down a serial killer.
For more about The Bletchley Circle and the The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray release, see the The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on May 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, Julie Graham, Simon Williams
Director: Andy De Emmony
» See full cast & crew
The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray Review
They eat Da Vinci for breakfast.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, May 11, 2013
"The Bletchley Circle" has an irresistible hook for crime-solving entertainment, following the actions of four brilliant codebreakers from WWII as they reteam to track down a serial killer in their hometown nearly a decade later. I'm surprised this isn't a Hollywood blockbuster, as the premise is ripe for maximum genre exposure. Instead of overblown theatrics, we have this humble ITV production that's made its way to America via PBS in an effort to show the audience there's a little more bite to public television than one might expect. Sensible with a few outrageous touches and smashingly acted by the four leading ladies, "The Bletchley Circle" is addictive and fulfilling, carrying on like a traditional British procedural, only with a delightful push of empowerment to give it identity and a spirit to celebrate.
Divided up into three episodes, "The Bletchley Circle" gets many things right, including a concise central mystery that doesn't have time to be fussed over or stretched out beyond recognition. Director Andy De Emmony and screenwriter Guy Burt have only two hours and change to launch and land the multi-character effort, making every moment count in personality and clue gathering. The series isn't weighed down in exposition, preferring to challenge the audience with a sophisticated design of pattern deduction, more interested in the steps to exposing the killer than building the monster's mystique. In fact, this murderer of women is revealed in the second episode, making "The Bletchley Circle" more about the steps of investigation than easy, violent thrills, though the production does indulge ghastly details of the crime, including a revelation of necrophilia that might cause more sensitive viewers to spit-take after that unseemly detail is revealed. It certainly isn't a graphic program, but there are enough incidents of abuse, attack, and insanity to lend the mini-series an edge that keeps the material alert.
Performances are key to the success of "The Bletchley Circle," with leading work from Martin, Stirling, Graham, and Rundle generating a believable unit of crime fighting, founded in a compulsive need to solve puzzles, not necessarily unsolved crimes. These are four well-defined personalities, each with their own set of fears and determination, captured with intensity and a welcome sense of vulnerability by the actresses, keeping the characters away from a cartoon sense of hyper intelligence. The story also touches on gender roles of the era, finding Susan particularly bound by her household role, turning to knitting and crossword puzzles to feed her magnificent brain. While only two of the four are pinned down by oppressive husbands, there's a proto-feminist push to the piece that keeps it interesting, watching wandering minds lost to post-war blues find purpose and accuracy once again, with the euphoria exceptionally detailed on expressive faces. Everyone loves a great murder mystery, but "The Bletchley Circle" is more engrossing when it touches on matters of the stymied soul, observing the codebreakers enjoy purpose, even if it comes to alienate them from the ones they love.
"Episode 1" (44:55)
In 1943, during the chaos of World War II, Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) works as a codebreaker for the Allies at the secretive Bletchley Park, using her special skill with patterns and puzzles to uncover covert Nazi plans, joined by brash Millie (Rachael Stirling), memory master Lucy (Sophie Rundle), and team leader Jean (Julie Graham). In 1952, Susan lives a mechanical life as a housewife, tasked with caring for her two young children and wounded husband Timothy (Mark Dexter). However, she secretly keeps track of news reports concerning a serial killer working his way around town, targeting young women. Figuring she's deciphered the maniac's next move, Susan shares her findings with Scotland Yard, who promptly botch the lead. Frustrated, she decides to work on the case herself, calling in Millie, Lucy, and Jean to help bring down the monster, reigniting their skills as an investigative unit.
"Episode 2" (44:01)
Working their way through the troubling case, the women determine a railway connection that takes them down a dark path of investigation, putting young Lucy out there as bait, while Millie visits the homes of possible suspects under the guise of an insurance saleswoman. Susan begins to lose herself in the task, neglecting her domestic duties, frustrating Timothy, who doesn't quite understand his wife's need to complete the mission. And Jean uses her connections to receive access to wartime records, allowing the gang to map out a psychological profile of the killer, which paints a disturbing portrait of a traumatized ghoul.
"Episode 3" (44:26)
Getting closer to the killer's identity, the foursome is hit with a cruel reality, finding themselves put into the line of fire when violence begins to threaten their existence. Susan is especially vulnerable, but unable to calm her mind, exposed to fresh scenes of horror as she pieces the clues together. With their home lives a mess, the women rebound with renewed urgency as the clock ticks down on the murder's latest victim.
The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation for "Bletchley Circle" reveals a slight muddiness to the viewing experience that brings down the natural vibrancy of the cinematography. Blacks are generally solidified, failing to provide depth and character, pulling texture out of set design and locations. Soft lightning suffocates colors, diluting hues during indoor encounters, while skintones push too unnaturally at times. The image strengthens considerably when the action moves to exteriors, finding daylight a great friend to the Blu-ray, permitting a chance to enjoy the satisfactory fine detail emerging from brightly illuminated props and facial reactions. Banding is a common problem, noticeable throughout the series, and some ghosting is detected as well.
The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2.0 PCM track generally does an adequate job with the primary audio goals of the series, providing a suspenseful balance of mystery and tense code-breaking, featuring a supportive score with crisp dramatic intention. There's also a pleasing heaviness to the mix that brings out moments of suspense. Dialogue exchanges are generally cared for, with decent separation between characters, and the group dynamic is successfully arranged. A few moments sound slightly muffled, though this appears to be inherent to the source. It's a basic listening event with little overt thrills, but the essentials remain secure and interesting.
The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"The Bletchley Circle" is saddled with an awful title, yet the show remains enthralling throughout all three episodes, inspecting brilliant women carry out a dangerous game they're unprepared to finish. Perhaps we've seen this type of programming before, but there's a heaviness of heart and depiction of intellect that's gripping, while giving four gifted actresses an opportunity to carry a mini-series with layered, confident performances, helping to create a suspenseful, sharp effort.
The Bletchley Circle: Other Seasons
The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Bletchley Circle: Season 2 Blu-ray - February 25, 2014
PBS Distribution has announced the Blu-ray release of creator/writer Guy Burt's The Bletchley Circle: Season 2, starring Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle, Julie Graham, Mark Dexter, Ed Birch, Michael Gould, Hattie Morahan and Faye Marsay. The ...
• The Bletchley Circle Blu-ray - April 9, 2013
PBS Distribution has officially announced the Blu-ray release of creator Guy Burt's The Bletchley Circle, a three-part period murder mystery starring Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle, Julie Graham and two-time BAFTA award-winner Anna Maxwell Martin. The vivid portrait ...
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