Set in the immediate aftermath of World War II when all the secret service agencies in Britain were in a frenzy, this period drama written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff was absolutely magnificent. It had this charming British nostalgic quality to it coupled with more threatening undertones that were ever present throughout. It was engrossing, intensely interesting and got better and better the more the series progressed. Without a shadow of doubt one of the TV highlights of 2016!
The narrative was expertly multilayered and centred around two brothers who had just finished their service in the war, both of who were scarred by the atrocities that they had witnessed. Captain Callum Ferguson(Jim Sturgess), was the elder brother to Victor(Freddie Highmore, and he sort of had this caring parental role over Victor. Victor had mental health issues which prompted regular bouts of erratic behaviour, Callum thus was always looking out for him(both their parents had died). Callum still worked for the army in the guise of a secret service agency called Taskforce, He was to first try and befriend a notable German engineer called Dieter Koehler(August Diehl) who they hoped would help the British be the first nation to break the sound barrier. They wanted the technological edge to other countries on making jet engines.
A second narrative strand concerned a character called Harold Lindsay-Jones(played superbly by Alfred Molina), befriending the two brothers. The big twist came in episode six though when it transpired that Harold had been duplicitous with Callum. He got Callum to steal a top secret file for him on the understanding that he would then out and expose ex-government officials, when in reality Harold wanted that file to save his own skin. Nevertheless, Harold loved Callum and Victor like his own sons and in the last episode Harold spoke movingly of his guilt in failing Callum. Harold said to ‘the perfume lady'(Lindsay Duncan),
‘why is it not possible to be as brave as one wants, just at the moment when one needs it most?’
In response to Harold’s guilt towards Callum and in believing he could have prevented the Second World War from happening, it ended up with a thrilling ending as he shot and killed Dieter. The latter we found out had been found to have been guilty of war crimes. Harold shooting Dieter prevented Callum from doing so and going to jail. Emotionally Harold stated, ‘it was an act of love’. It was a tremendous performance all series by well- known actor Molina.
A third narrative strand was the illicit love affair between Callum and his best friend’s new wife Rachel(Charlotte Riley). Numerous times this love affair reminded of the one in The English Patient movie. starring Ralph Fiennes and Kirsten Scott-Thomas. This is high praise indeed bearing in mind what an exceptional piece of work that is. The difference here though that Rachel and Callum lived happily ever after, i.e they didn’t in The English Patient. Again, it was writing of the highest order by Poliakoff.
A special mention must be given to the outstanding background music throughout the series. For example, near the end of the final episode there was this long string section that was quite simply breathtaking to listen too. It really helped magnify the emotive mood of the narrative. Every episode was like a mini-film and that was due in part to the amazing music that we heard.
Overall, one of the best things to have graced our TV screens in 2016. I hope for a second series because I absolutely loved, THIS BEAUTIFUL ACT OF LOVE! 5/5.