Babylon (2014)
7/10
Energetic Satire of Media's Relationship to Contemporary Policing
15 February 2014
With a nod to political satires such as HOUSE OF CARDS (1991) and THE THICK OF IT (2005-8), BABYLON offers an energetic satire of the Metropolitan Police and its relationship to the contemporary media. The connection with THE THICK OF IT is no coincidence; the co-writer of BABYLON, Jesse Armstrong, worked on episodes of the earlier series. In BABYLON there are two plots unfolding simultaneously: Commissioner Miller (James Nesbitt) has to deal with a series of shootings in the Uxbridge area, while finding the best way to present the police's response to the incident in the media with the help of his communications director Liz Garvey (Brit Marling). Meanwhile TSG Officer Robbie (Adam Deacon), together with his colleagues, have been selected as subjects for another television reality series on the workings of the police. Director Danny Boyle shows how both plots are linked by the preference for style over substance; it doesn't matter what you do, so long as it's presented effectively on television or through other media. The officers tend to fall into two stereotypes; they are either thuggish, incompetent or both. Although presenting a co-ordinated image, they appear incapable of making any coherent decisions, let alone formulating any effective policing strategy. Commissioner Miller seems more concerned with maintaining good relationships with Mayor Boris Johnson (whose voice has been effectively impersonated by Jon Culshaw) rather than improving his staff performance. At the level of communications, Liz tries her best to present something approximating to "the truth" about the shooting through the media, but finds herself constrained by her co-workers. Most of these satiric targets are predictable (the Metropolitan Police seems to have a perpetual problem with its operations, as well as its media presentation), but the direction is lively and the performances full-blooded, to say the least. There is definitely potential here for further episodes in serial form.
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