Collateral review: Carey Mulligan stars in Netflix’s addictive murder mystery and there goes your weekend
Cast - Carey Mulligan, John Simm, Billie Piper
Rating - 3.5/5
For a brief five-year period towards the end of the 2000s, Carey Mulligan occupied the same space that actors such as Emma Stone and Brie Larson occupy now. By 2013, she’d already worked with some of the best filmmakers around – Michael Mann, Nicolas Winding Refn, The Coen Brothers, Baz Luhrmann, Steve McQueen and Oliver Stone – and was poised to enter the A-list, the next logical step probably being an entry into the Marvel Universe. But Carey Mulligan had other plans. At the height of her fame, she retreated. You’d hear about her every few months, but only if you were actively seeking updates.
And her return is just as curious as her low-key disappearance. Starting Friday, Mulligan will be seen in the new murder mystery, Collateral – not to be confused with the excellent Tom Cruise-Jamie Foxx movie of the same name – which will stream all its four episodes on Netflix.
Fans of British cop shows would be well aware of the fact that, in what is both a blessing and curse, there are way too many British cop shows out there. They usually have one-word titles – perhaps something to do with the quaint small town in which they’re set, or with the crippling psychology of their complex protagonists – and they usually star journeyman actors such as Gillian Anderson, Olivia Colman or Stellan Skarsgard. Essentially, none of this seems like something you could picture Carey Mulligan in, even in her heydays.
Her DI Kip Glaspie is noticeably older, and she plays her with the languid functional exhaustion you’d usually associate with tough TV detectives. She has bags under her eyes, a shapeless figure under several layers of clothing, and a dark, mysterious past that seems to linger over every conversation with or about her.
She’s called into action one night when a pizza delivery boy is gunned down outside a posh London apartment. She lurches out of bed, perhaps a tad too quickly for her husband’s liking, and arrives at the crime scene exuding a quiet authority.
Collateral does an excellent job of laying out the pieces of its puzzle in the first episode. We’re shown the moments immediately before and after the murder, and the series of seemingly random events that led to the victim being present at the wrong place at the wrong time. It is only when Glaspie points out these irregularities – why was he given the order originally meant to be delivered by another guy, why was the delivered pizza found lying on the floor, uneaten – that we begin to understand the intricacies of veteran writer David Hare’s story.
But besides this minute understanding of plot, character and genre, Collateral has decidedly loftier ambitions. The slain young man happens to be a Syrian refugee, who, after risking his life crossing the Mediterranean for over a month, had been living with his family in a dingy storage unit. A key character, an MP - the show’s moral centre despite his frequent immoral behaviour - is a vocal proponent of refugee rights.
Unusual as it may sound, very few films and TV shows have had the courage to address the refugee crisis directly. It’s even more unusual that the first films that come to mind are not harrowing dramas such as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, but spectacular fantasy movies such as Thor: Ragnarok and Duncan Jones’ Warcraft. Yes, they’re about the refugee crisis.
But that raises an interesting question. Why? Why haven’t more filmmakers - European filmmakers especially - tackled this subject with greater confidence? It’s certainly a moment of great upheaval, the sort of moment that could alter the course of history.
And with a worrying wave of right-wing politicians seemingly on the rise across Europe, spouting anti-refugee rhetoric and celebrating the unfathomable success of Donald Trump, stories such as these are vital now more than ever before.
It’s an added bonus that Collateral happens to be a cracking murder mystery too, one that has fun with tropes of the genre and upends them in exciting new ways.
Watch the Collateral trailer here