DEFINITION August 2022 - Web


Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman’s first TV lead role sees a British espionage drama with a difference – the spies are rubbish. Cinematographer Danny Cohen delights in this London-centric thriller-comedy Spy games

WORDS. Julian Mitchell IMAGES. Apple TV+

S low Horses is an Apple TV+ cinematographer Danny Cohen points to a primary reason for that: the streamer is investing heavily in its fledgling service. This, of course, means buying the show in the first place, but also upping the data rate from its broadcast servers to elevate the viewing experience. London-born Cohen is obviously proud of the production, as it drips with the capital’s cool and even has Mick Jagger composing and singing the title track. The Rolling Stone is a fan of the original books by Mick Herron and was so keen to be involved, he turned the song around in a couple of days. The production revels in the colour and tone of the seventies and eighties production, so compared to other streaming services, it has an extra measure of ‘gleam’ to it. The show’s espionage genre, but never has a spy story picked over the deficiencies of its spooks so much. At its heart, the story is a fast- moving thriller, but it originates from a despondent place with some great twists. A CONTORTED SMILEY ‘Slow horses’ is the name MI5 gives to the headquarters and residents of a downtrodden department of failed spies, misfits, malcontents and loafers. They

inhabit Slough House, a nondescript north London address with a back entrance and grimy office interior. Their boss Jackson Lamb, played by Gary Oldman, is also past his prime, but delights in making his miserable crew even more downbeat – to the point where they demand P45s and leave. In fact, that’s his brief... get rid of the slow horses. Oldman is almost like a twisted version of his George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – browbeaten, toxic and absorbed by revenge and malice; it’s a great performance. As Cohen remarked, “Why wouldn’t you refer to that role as a conscious decision?” Mick Herron’s books were rich pickings for the adapter Will Smith, director James Hawes, production designer Tom Burton and Cohen. The characters and scenarios were lifted from the page and set free in a production that was almost instantly awarded a second series – and then a third and fourth soon after. There are plenty of books to keep them going. SLOUGH HOUSE For Cohen, who was prepping Season 3 when we talked with him, it was initially a matter of finding the right look for Slough House. Its suffocating

“Production revels in the tone of the seventies and eighties espionage genre, but never has a spy story picked over the deficiencies of its spooks so much”


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