“This is your debut in the theatre of real.”
Based on the John le Carré’s 1983 spy novel of the same name, director Park Chan-Wook’s small screen debut, The Little Drummer Girl, is a thrilling addition to the vast scope of brilliant television 2018 has offered us. Starring Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgård, and Michael Shannon, the series follows the aftermath of an explosion in 1979 West Germany. Martin Kurtz (Shannon) heads an investigation of sorts to find the group of men behind it, whom he believes are notorious siblings who have committed similar crimes before. Meanwhile, Charlie Ross (Pugh), a twenty-something English actress with ‘radical’ leftist views, encounters Becker (Skarsgård) in Greece. Becker is a vague and mysterious man who keeps his cards close to his chest, but Charlie has her wits about her and suspects immediately he’s playing some sort of game. What follows is a tug of war between the two, her guard is up but he is relaxed – assuming she’ll eventually agree to whatever plan he has in store.
The first episode begins with a watch ticking, then a clock, another watch, a tapping, a young boy bouncing a ball against a wall; all building to form a metronomic symphony before a suitcase bomb explodes in the young boy’s room. Clocks, spirals, and spinning are all closely detailed by the camera in a Hitchcockian fashion, as though we are always counting down to, or on the verge of something. The Little Drummer Girl is high in melodrama, but not ridiculously so; the stakes feel equally as high, and twice as thrilling.
Park Chan-Wook is sure to divide audiences with the deeply political stances of his characters. It’s exceedingly ambiguous who is actually ‘good’ in this world he’s created. It becomes hard to tell who is with who and where, but this is certainly not to its detriment. Chan-Wook strikes a brilliantly subtle balance between tension and humour. When Kurtz and his colleagues are discussing the best way to extract information from a hostage, they are all comically sucking on rainbow ice-pops. It’s a mundane thing in a not-so-mundane situation. The cast, in particular Pugh, are utterly magnetic. She is infinitely watchable and razor-sharp – standing her ground with the big, established names around her, she cements her position as a star of her generation.
The Little Drummer Girl will air on BBC One 28 October at 9pm and runs for six episodes across six weeks. Be sure to tune in, it’s not to be missed.
by Millicent Thomas
Millicent Thomas is a proud Mancunian who will be studying film at Bath School of Art & Design from September 2018. Hobbies include theatre, museums and waiting for Charles Xavier to show up and tell her she’s the world’s most powerful mutant. Her favourite films include Whiplash, Her, Logan and Short Term 12. You can follow her on Instagram at @millicentathomas and twitter at @millicentonfilm