Film REVIEWS:
ADAM'S TOP 10 - NETFLIX DRAMATIC SERIES

July 7th, 2021 – For this Blog Post I thought I’d try something different and discuss my Top 10 Netflix Shows, specifically dramatic series.  I’ve been catching up on a lot of shows and films during the pandemic and hope my recommendations will help some of you avoid wasting time looking for new things to watch, something I’ve been doing a lot of lately.  Most of these are Netflix Originals and I didn’t want to give away too many spoilers below but if you haven’t seen these they you definitely should!

#1 – MINDHUNTER

This dark and gritty psychological thriller is based on the life and work of John E. Douglas, the author of the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.  Mindhunter revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), who operate the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit within the Training Division at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.  The plot follows the agents as they launch a research project to interview imprisoned serial killers to understand their psychology, with the hope of applying this knowledge to solve ongoing cases.  David Fincher is one of my favourite Director’s and once again his style, pacing, and mood give the series a cinematic richness.  Though not all the characters in the series are based off real people there are lots of real criminals featured like Edmund Kemper and Charles Manson which sets an ominous mood.  Thought to be cancelled, a new rumour claims that Season 3 of Mindhunter is close to happening on Netflix which I really hope is true.

 

#2 – BLACK MIRROR

I first saw this brilliant show from creator Charlie Brooker through it’s first two seasons produced by the BBC.  Each episode is a different story centred around different characters and the series examines how advancements in technology affects humans.  It thematically shows the dangers of technology through it’s episodes whether it be cell phones, drones, artificial intelligence, mind reading and more.  Some of my favourite episodes include ‘Hated in the Nation’ (S3-E6) which examines a future where bees have died off.  When robotic ones start to be used to pollenate, they get hacked and used in a sadistic murder plot.  Another episode ‘Shut Up and Dance’ (S3-E3) follows a young man whose webcam was hacked.  He is blackmailed, but when the truth comes out we realize he isn’t so innocent.  Also, one of the new seasons is created as choose your own adventure film called ‘Bandersnatch’ which is brilliantly executed from a creative and technical perspective.  There are multiple endings and storylines based on the decisions you make as the viewer, something I feel we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

 

#3 – DARK

This German science fiction series really caught my attention as soon as I started watching it.  Through three seasons, Dark follows characters from the fictional German town of Winden as they pursue the truth in the aftermath of a child’s disappearance. They follow connections between four estranged families to unravel a sinister time travel conspiracy which spans several generations and parallel universes.  The tone of the show is truly captivating, with moody lighting, stunning cinematography and a score that haunts the viewer.  The narrative gets pretty complex as the lead character Jonas Kahnwald travels through time to discover four different versions of himself from different decades.  The whole cast is amazing and although I found the first two seasons the strongest I really enjoyed the show overall. 

#4 – CALL MY AGENT

Finally a show that’s a bit lighter – the French series Call My Agent (original French title ‘Dix Pour Cent’ ) follows a Parisian casting agency as they struggle to hold onto clients and compete against other agencies in the game.  Maybe I’m a fan of this show because of film school and my career.  It takes an inside look at the dramas behind A-list actors and the filmmaking process.  Different episodes features real actors making cameos as themselves as clients of the agency, including legendary talent such as Monica Belluci, Gerard Depardieu, Sigourney Weaver and Juliette Binoche.  There’s lot of comedy and drama as different episodes show the ridiculous and absurd side of the industry while others show the cutthroat nature of the business.

 

#5 – THE CROWN

I don’t know why I waited so long before watching The Crown becasue when I did I was pleasantly surprised. I though it would have a stuffy and boring British feel to it like Coronation Street but this series is a historical masterpiece of cinema.  The series portrays the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding in 1947 to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, until the early 21st century.  The structure of the show is amazing, I really liked how different episodes focus on different historical events such as the Aberfan Mine Disaster (S3-E3) or President Kennedy and Jackie O’s visit to Buckingham Palace (S2-E8).  As the Queen gets older, she is recast and played by different actors including Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman who both deliver stellar performances.  The show starts to focus on Princess Diana in Season 4 and I am anxiously awaiting the new season to see how the filmmakers portray her demise at the hands of the paparazzi.

 

#6 – NARCOS

This superb crime series combines historical footage and photos between it’s scenes to tell the true story of Pablo Escobar and his rise to power as the biggest drug lord in Colombia. The show is told from the perspective of Steve Murphy (Robert Boyd Holbrook), an American DEA agent working in Colombia alongside his partner Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal).  The show moves quickly,  is highly addictive and continues until after the fall of Escobar and rise of the Cali cartel in Season 3.  In 2018, the directors announced that Season 4 would instead reset as Season 1 of a new Netflix original series, titled Narcos: Mexico.  The new spinoff focuses on the development of Mexico’s illegal drug trade in the same real and gritty style as the original.

#7 – BABY

This Italian teen drama series follows students at an elite high school in Rome who are involved in prostitution. It is loosely based on the story of two high school girls in Rome involved in an underage prostitution ring (the “Baby Squillo” scandal) in 2014 which I just discovered. Baby follows Chiara (Benedetta Porcaroli), a young, rich girl who’s life changes when she meets the impulsive and troubled Ludovica (Alice Pagani) as they delve into the shadowy and devious underworld of Rome.  I really enjoyed the cinematography and lighting which has a crisp and neon feel.  The music and score is amazing as well, and it drives the show from the opening theme through to the darker electronic pulsing rhythms throughout.

 

#8 – BABYLON BERLIN

Babylon Berlin is a German neo-noir television series based on novels by German author Volker Kutscher.  The series starts in 1929 and follows Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), a police inspector on assignment from Cologne who is on a secret mission to dismantle an extortion ring.  In Berlin, he meets Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), a police clerk by day, flapper by night, who aspires to become a police inspector.  Liv is a great actress and delivers a powerful performance, showing many different talents through her character.  The show has almost a Baz Luhrmann feel too it with some musical sequences that are theatrical and grandiose.  It’s the highest budget German original Netflix series to date and it shows on screen.  The criminal plot is exposed by Gereon as he deals with corrupt officials and past traumas and navigates the surreal Weimar period of Berlin.

 

#9 – TRAPPED

Trapped (Original Titles ‘Ófærð ‘ ) is an Icelandic television mystery drama series first aired in 2015.  This intricate murder mystery set in a very unique location that is almost a character itself.  The series follows Andri Olafsson (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), the chief of police in a remote town in Iceland, solving the murder of a former townsman whose mutilated corpse is recovered by fishermen.  The landscape and weather serve to enhance the  plot as a winter blizzard descends on the Scandinavian village and they become trapped.  The story is complex and each episode is full of hidden clues that initially seemed inconsequential but prove to reveal the mystery in the end.

 

#10 – STRANGER THINGS

Stranger Things has become a sort of guilty pleasure for me since it came out.  It’s not realistic or deep but the Duffer Brothers have created a throwback to the 80’s that’s entertaining and fun.  The story is set in Indiana and revolves around the disappearance of a young boy.  His family, a police chief and his friends begin a quest to find him and as they search for answers they discover supernatural forces and secret government exploits. The synth wave soundtrack and neon lighting and titles give the show a nostalgic feel.  The cast is amazing as well, and young actors such as Millie Bobbie Brown (Eleven) and Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) have made careers out of their performances in the show.  Although I found the story and plot has gotten weaker as the seasons progressed, I am looking forward to the release of Season 4 which is currently still in production.

 

Look for more reviews in the coming months and let me know which shows you recommend!

Copyright Adam Bialo | Kontakt Films | 2021