Directed by Marc Munden
Starring – Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters and Andrea Riseborough
Currently airing on Channel 4 (the last episode to be screened on the 11th October, 9pm), National Treasure follows comedian Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane), a once regarded ‘national treasure,’ after his world is thrown into chaos as a result of historic sexual abuse accusations coming to light. As the investigations begin, Paul’s normally devoted family begin to question the past and trust begins to falter.
When the series premiered I had no initial intentions of watching the show. I’d seen the trailers and noticed the strong cast but didn’t set out to watch the series. However, with the television merely on in the background one evening, my housemate and I sat absolutely engrossed in the episode. That’s the key thing to note with this series, is that it’s just so gripping. My boyfriend who had completely missed the first two episodes was absolutely hooked on episode 3. The story is just so well told and the twists and reveals keep you on the edge of your seat. Without giving too much away, National Treasure takes each of the central characters and slowly alters your perceptions of them episode by episode. The series allows you to speculate the turns it’s going to take but doesn’t give you the satisfaction of being right, holding everything back for the final episode.
In a narrative where a maintained level of tension is essential and emotions run high, the performances are essential to carry the drama. In addition to this, with the characters each having to hide secrets and reveal their darker selves on a frequent basis the actors are required to depict not only their characters conscious and social level but also their subconscious. Despite the seemingly picture perfect family life portrayed in the first half of episode one, the darker side to each protagonist is slowly revealed and their roles not so easily defined. The actors play their roles so well and leave the audience wary of their every move, their motives become hard to judge as it becomes more difficult to decipher if a character is telling the truth or lying to everyone.
Not only is the narrative gripping but the look of the series is aesthetically appealing. The dimly lit scenes and tight camera frames make aspects of dialogue look like clips from interrogations, making every character seem more suspicious and every sequence more tense. From a representational point of view, the unusual and almost artistic look of the shots in National Treasure enhances the idea of characters obscuring information and at moments highlights their vulnerability.
The storyline doesn’t take any special level of intelligence to understand, it’s simple enough and with the number of real life historical sex abuse cases going on at the moment there’s no lack of knowledge from that perspective. The secrets and realistic ways characters adjust themselves around different people to keep different things hidden makes this television series so distinctive at a time when soft entertainment and reality TV shows are huge. Definitely worth a watch if you love crime and mystery. It’s a proper whodunnit and with only four episodes at an hour in length there’s no excuse. All episodes are currently on 4od to watch.