True Detective (2014)
Writer: Nic Pizzolatto
Director: Cary Fukunaga
I’ve had very few television experiences in my life as fully satisfying as the first season of True Detective. Perhaps only the final season of Breaking Bad, which took place less than a year earlier, is its equal in my mind. The story is a mix of your standard police procedural with an old school Film Noir (think Night of the Hunter), a little bit of American Horror Story, a high charged thriller, and a very deep philosophical character study. Rust Cohle may be the best role of Matthew McConaughey’s career, and that is a career that has seen some serious contenders in recent years in movies like Mud, Dallas Buyers Club etc… Cohle is a world weary detective that gives dark pop psychology while tracking a deranged cultish killer down in the swamps of Louisiana. His partner is veteran detective Marty Hart played by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson and McConaughey have natural seamless chemistry with each other that makes this show an absolute joy to watch.
There’s so much to awe at here I really don’t even know where to begin. First there’s the story arch that bridges three different narrative strings taking place in three separate time periods (1995, 2002, and the present day respectively), that all weave together in flashbacks and flash forwards to tell one cohesive story. In the hands of an unskilled director, this could have been an absolute mess, but it was done perfectly here. Then there’s the technical achievements, such as an amazing tracking shot that spans six minutes in one take (with no edits or cuts at all), and is dramatically speaking one of the most intense moments of the series, and is only the set up episode to the mid season finale. The cinematography is also stunning a dark seedy sort of way. The only thing that kind of disappointed me was the reveal of the big villain at the end. Compared to the characters of Cole and Hart, this guy, weird as he was just didn’t measure up at all. But in the end, everything tied together perfectly, and as I said at the beginning, this was one of my favorite television viewing experiences of all time.