The Fall – the best thriller to come out of Belfast

The BBC have commissioned a second series of Belfast-set psychological thriller The Fall – which is currently screening on BBC2 as well as streaming on Netflix.  In case you haven’t caught up with the five part series yet, X Files star Gillian Anderson plays DSI Stella Gibson, a Metropolitan police officer brought in by the PSNI to solve what starts out initially as one murder but before you can say pretty brunette, turns into a series of slayings.

Jamie Doran plays the role of the serial killer, Paul Specter, who outwardly at least, leads a normal life – married father of two young children who works as a counsellor.  He just happens to have a nasty, sadistic side to him that is played out in his targeting of professional women in their thirties who all seem to wear their long, dark hair in a similar way.

Written and executive produced by Allan Cubitt, who wrote Prime Suspect 2, The Fall is perhaps the first drama to come out of Northern Ireland that doesn’t have politics and the Troubles as its main premise.  As well as the fine, restrained acting from Gillian Anderson and the outstanding performance by Doran as the sadistic, manipulative killer, the success of the series is down in no small part to the work of  Belgian director, Jakob Verbruggen.

Verbruggen turns present day Belfast into a dark and moody, almost menacing place.  A meeting that takes place between two senior police officers on a rare day when the sun is shining is set in the vast but empty looking Titanic quarter.

In contrast to the feeling of alienation and distance that Veerbruggen invokes in his location scenes, he takes the audience up close, too close at times, which is very unsettling, in the scenes with the killer as he watches and stalks his prey.  The camera work allows us to see every detail on Stella Gibson’s face as she reacts to the latest developments in the case.

There is a neat parallel between the way that Stella Gibson works off the stress of the case by swimming fast laps of a half empty pool and the way that Paul goes running at night through the deserted streets before he’s about to commit a new crime.

As the drama draws to a close, the question is, will Stella catch her man.  Find out on Monday, BBC2.

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