Friday, July 25, 2008

The Apocalypse is Now

The 2-part eco-thriller, "Burn Up", of which I saw the first part yesterday - the final part's tonight - is a classier beast than other recent BBC dramas, though at one point you forget which drama you're actually in since there's Marc Warren (Hustle/Dr. Who) Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing). I half expected Torchwood to appear at some point and introduce some extra-terrestrial element. Probably having its narrative squeezed into 3 hours has helped it somewhat. I said its an eco-thriller, but its really a techno-thriller with a bit of "greenwash" to use the term the oil industry uses here to talk about "renewables." Penry-Jones playing Tom McConnell, young oil exec, manages to sum up the climate change debate as "either we're right, or they're right", which certainly saves you having to watch "An Inconvenient Truth." The convenient truth here of course is that catastrophic as most of the numbers appear regarding climate change, for a writer - whether in fiction, or in a teleplay - catastrophe is always a box office winner. The apocalypse, once nuclear in nature, is now ecological, and though even less reduceable to a human narrative than an atomic bomb, it gives any number of writers something a little more malleable to play with than, say, 9/11. In a post-biblical age, it seems we are drawn more and more to biblical stories, of floods and apocalypses. It's somewhat surprising, watching "Burn Up", to find that the writer is Simon Beaufoy, most famous for "The Full Monty." I'm looking forward to tonight's conclusion. My standby button remains off.

Part Two wasn't quite as exciting as part one. Being set entirely at "Kyoto 2" in Calgary (why didn't they just call it Calgary then?) it was a bit of an uneasy mix between an episode of the West Wing (lots of scenes drafting documents) with an episode of "Spooks." I'm not sure I cared by the end, which of the "powers that be" won out. It was clever, but required quite a lot of suspension of belief. In the end, I guess it was wanting it both ways - to be a bit of a polemic on the one hand, and a thriller on the other. You only have to compare with Channel 4's classic "Traffik" to see how this kind of thing can be done. Worth watching, particular in the desert of summer viewing, but a little disappointing.

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