Posted: 05/03/2009



by Del Harvey

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Irish actor/director/screenwriter Kenneth Branagh turns in one of best performances as Kurt Wallander, a rumpled Swedish police inspector who takes murder personally. He’s far to caring, much too intelligent, and definitely too focused on his work to take care of himself. He’s lost his wife because she could not compete with the job. His daughter puts up with him and he’s damned lucky she does. His co-workers respect and admire him, but few feel as though they really know him. No matter, when there’s a murder to be solved, you can be sure Kurt Wallander will do everything he can to solve it, even at the sacrifice of his own health and well-being.

In the seaside town of Ystad, Sweden, Inspector Kurt Wallander has been solving heinous crimes for his entire middle-aged career, and seeing his life spiral out of control. He has recently broken up with is wife, his blood sugar is going haywire, his daughter is trying to ruin his life and his artist father is succumbing to dementia. But a personal life as bleak as the existential landscape is just what a Nordic cop needs to focus his mind on a maelstrom of bizarre crimes in three fiendishly complicated cases.

Wallander will premiere on PBS on May 10. Here are capsule descriptions of the first three episodes. Check your local listings for showtimes in your area.

May 10, 2009 - Sidetracked
An unknown young woman sets herself on fire in a field, leading to a search for her identity. Could her suicide be connected to a string of grisly ax murders?

May 17, 2009 - Firewall
Two teenage girls commit murder. A man drops dead in a public square. The local power grid is on the blink. And Wallander can’t find time for a new love interest. These disparate strands are gradually woven into a fiendish plot.

May 31, 2009 - One Step Behind
Three young people celebrating Midsummer’s Eve in a secluded meadow are ritually gunned down — and the murders have only just begun.

The Wallander mystery novels are said to be bestsellers in 30 countries. The BBC commissioned these three adaptations of three Wallander mystery novels starring Kenneth Branagh and, if the books are as good as these films, I’m sure the US will soon be counted among those countries where his books are popular. If you enjoy a good mystery, well-rounded characters, intriguing plot and superb performances, tune into the series; you’ll be glad you did.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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