There are television series and then there’s “Foyle’s War.” If one had to choose a production that depicts what the Brits are best at, it’s this show.
So what are they best at? In my opinion, it’s a natural leaning towards understatement combined with a steady growth in suspense. Several plot lines are developed until the conclusion which always leaves you thinking about ethics and politics. Alfred Hitchcock was a master of it and so is Anthony Horowitz, Foyle’s creator.
The action takes place during World War II, mostly around the town of Hastings. Foyle is Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle who wants to contribute to the war effort. His duty is to solve crimes on the domestic front and he always introduces himself as “a police officer.”
Sometimes the crimes are political and other times they appear petty but actually, they are always very crucial because society has to function ethically during the war or there’s no point in fighting for values that are not respected. A chaotic and lawless society would mean that the enemy has won.
That is Christopher Foyle’s credo. Profiteers, traitors and looters will not be tolerated. It’s almost like the zero tolerance policy that the city of New York adopted a few years ago when crime statistics were out of control.
In Foyle’s War one is always conscious of the common good. There is a recurring theme of the need for all Brits to be treated as equals and Foyle uses this approach when it comes to crimes committed by the aristocracy. He is not impressed by status.
That does not mean that important people don’t get away with misdemeanours and even murder, but as Foyle says he will come after them when the war is over. And we believe him, so strong is his moral code.
I absolutely love the way Horowitz shows two sides of a story. Nothing is simple or inevitable and the viewer is not insulted by too much explanation.
Basically, “Foyle’s War” is a thinking person’s detective story in which historical events play a crucial part. For example, in one episode there is a reference to Dunkirk with a description of what really went on there and how ordinary people went over to Dunkirk in the flimsiest of vessels to rescue their soldiers. It will make you cry because of the powerful emotions that are repressed by the fishermen. It’s a million times more effective than that tedious Dunkirk episode in the film “Atonement.”
As for the cast, there is Michael Kitchen in the role of Foyle. His portrayal is amazing. One slight twitch of his lips is all that’s required to convey the deepest of emotions. A shrug, a raising of the eyebrows, even a moment of silence, says it all.
And it’s his acting style that leaves an imprint on the other actors. His driver, Samantha Stewart, who is a little more emotional than her boss, is still the epitome of British stoicism and dedication with a touch of charming femininity. She is perfect in the role. Honeysuckle Weeks is spunky yet vulnerable in the portrayal of Samantha.
Paul Milner (played by Anthony Howell) is also perfect casting. He is Foyle’s assistant who has been wounded in action in Norway and so has to return to home duties. His private life is a disaster because of his injury and this makes for interesting personal situations.
This is the trio of principal characters who will lead the audience from August 1940 to the end of the war in 1945. The final series is yet to be shown and I am certainly looking forward to it. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t wait for it to be shown on Australian TV so I have pre-ordered it and hope it arrives soon.