British television has been one of the bigger surprises to me over the last year or so. I can’t quite tell if it’s due to me getting older or maybe just that I’m spending more time with the stuff that has gotten me to this point, but whatever the case may be, I have thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve seen of it so far. Maybe I’m just lucky.
A lot of my experience with British TV (besides BBC’s Doctor Who and documentaries, which are a tier in and of themselves), has been with Acorn’s Blu-ray offerings. Each time I review one I find myself a fan of another well made and smart show. Close to the Enemy is yet another in this line of shows that has hooked me in. Let’s delve in and find out why.
I will be up front and say that I fully understand why some people don’t appreciate the atmosphere in British television. Up until recently, I was in the same camp. Generally speaking, and in my experience, the shows that come out from across the pond are a bit more dry and refined. This is not to say they can’t be hilarious, exciting, or all around amazing though, which I feel is an important distinction. There is just something about them that feels a bit more prim and proper. Maybe it’s just something I expected until recently? Either way, if you historically haven’t been a fan of the TV shows from the UK, Close to the Enemy may not change your mind, but I still feel that there is hope for you yet.
Close to the Enemy, while technically a mini-series, is a seven part story that follows Callum Ferguson (played by Jim Sturgess), a member of the prestigious T-Force who is out to enlist the support of Dieter Koehler, a German scientist who may be able to crack a highly valuable breakthrough in aviation.
What makes Ferguson’s task a bit difficult is that WWII has transitioned into the Cold War, and Koehler has less than a favorable disposition at having been removed from his home in Germany. At least he has his young daughter with him, holed up in a hotel that mostly survived the bombings of war. However, a member of the British War Crimes Department has also been nosing around the hotel, looking for German’s to convict, further complicating matters.
What makes Close to the Enemy great isn’t its “intrigue and espionage” (of which there is plenty, of course), but rather it’s ability to develop interesting characters and a world that is seeping with character of it’s own. This show takes place in a very interesting time that gets very little screen time, so it’s really cool to see it come to life. This is no doubt due to the top notch acting across the board and the huge attention to detail in set creation.
Close to the Enemy gets a full recommendation from me. Not only does Sturgess knock it out of the part in this role, the litany of support characters are all super interesting, and don’t forget that Alfie Allen is in this one too (I love that guy).
When it comes to video and audio quality, I am pleased to say that Acorn has matched the higher expectations that I have started to expect from them. Each of the television shows that I’ve seen that they have released have been very good looking; better looking, in fact, than I would expect from a television series. Skin tones are always natural, and the colors always stand out with the textures.
The audio on this release is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is 100% pleasurable to listen to. The dialog (which represents most of the audio) is crystal clear throughout, and the parts of the show with music or ambient effects are equally clean. There may not be a lot to stand out, but its about as good as it gets.
There is a decent amount of extra features in this package, however, given how cool the environment and time was, I was left craving a full blown documentary. Kind of hard to judge too hard for that, in my opinion. Here’s what’s included:
- Behind the Scenes – a five part featurette that explores more around post WWII Brittain. Broken into the following topics:
- A Conversation with Stephen Poliakoff (the writer/Director)
- Meet the Enemy
- Recreating the World
- The Hotel Guests
- Music & Dance
- Cast & Crew Interviews – ten interviews with the cast and crew, including Jim Sturgess.
- Photo Gallery
- Trailers for other Acorn shows
- Four page booklet with notes from the Director.
Close to the Enemy comes to us on Blu-ray thanks to Acorn Media. This package comes in a 3-disc amaray case with a one sided sleeve and a matching slipcover. The discs are mostly generic black but have the flag in full color which is a nice touch. Also included inside is a small booklet with pictures and Director’s notes.
I really enjoyed my time with Close to the Enemy. It’s a smart and very well made drama about a time of war that gets little to no exposure. This one is definitely worth a blind buy to anyone remotely interested in WWII/Cold War stuff, but even if you just have a passing interest, this is a solid pickup.
You can purchase it here on Amazon.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.