“BECKETT” PARANOID POLITICAL THRILLER; PBS FALL PREVIEW
A TV Review by Tim Riley
“BECKETT” ON NETFLIX Political intrigue thrillers rooted in paranoia made their mark in the late Sixties and early Seventies with films like Costa-Gravas’ “Z;” Sydney Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor,” and Alan J. Pakula’s “The Parallax View.”Netflix’s “Beckett” captures the paranoid action thriller where the protagonist is a Hitchcockian “wrong man” caught up in a case of intrigue and deception for which he’s as clueless as Cary Grant’s character in “North by Northwest.”In the eponymous role of “Beckett,” John David Washington is an American tourist in Greece, joined by his girlfriend April (Alicia Vikander) to explore the rural areas as political unrest in the capital caused them to take leave of Athens.Driving late at night on backroads to a bed-and-breakfast, Beckett loses control of the vehicle, resulting in a deadly crash into an apparently abandoned house. April dies on the scene, while Beckett passes out after seeing what he believes is a woman and a young boy.
The thriller kicks into gear when Beckett after his hospital stay gets interrogated by a bearded cop. Deciding to revisit the scene of the crash, Beckett finds himself in the crosshairs of the same cop and a blonde woman. He escapes with a superficial gunshot wound.Hence starts a furious run from his assailants who go to such great lengths to find Beckett that any of the locals that help him meet a terrible fate. In a strange land with a language barrier, Beckett must use his wits to get back to Athens for help from the American Embassy.The journey is fraught with danger, but Beckett comes upon a pair of activists (Vicky Krieps and Daphne Alexander) headed to a rally in Athens. They believe that Beckett may have seen the kidnapped son of an opposition political leader and decide to help.At under two hours “Beckett” may not seize the full spirit of a conspiracy thriller of the genre, and yet there is enough intrigue with corrupt government officials and an assassination plot to deliver satisfying enjoyment of the trickery that an everyman has to overcome.
PBS FALL PREVIEW
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has been a mainstay of notable documentaries that have aired on PBS, including “Baseball,” “The Civil War,” and “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.” With his long-term commitment to PBS, it is not surprising that Burns would choose a subject for a biographical documentary who has been as controversial and widely acclaimed as legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.The four-part series “Muhammad Ali” is set to air in September, and at the PBS press tour Burns observed that “Muhammad comes to us first and foremost as the greatest athlete perhaps of all time, certainly of the 20th Century, and as the greatest boxer.” “Muhammad Ali” draws from an extraordinary trove of archival footage and photographs, contemporary music, and the insights and memories of eyewitnesses – including family and friends, journalists, boxers and historians, among others – to create a sweeping portrait.While largely celebrated today as an icon of American sport and culture, Muhammad was at one time reviled by many in society for his involvement in the Nation of Islam and refusal to be inducted into the Army during the Vietnam War.
The draft dodging resulted in five years of legal jeopardy and a three-and-a-half-year banishment from boxing, and yet Ali captivated so many with his combination of speed, agility and power in the ring.“Muhammad Ali” also captures the three-time heavyweight boxing champion’s charm, wit and outspokenness outside of the boxing ring. From his boastful claim of being “The Greatest” to his steadfast Muslim faith, there is much to learn about the greatest boxer.The American Film Institute designates Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” as the greatest film of all time, followed by “Casablanca,” “The Godfather,” and “Gone with the Wind.” What’s notable about “Citizen Kane,” a biographical story of fictional wealthy newspaper publisher and industrial magnate Charles Foster Kane, is that it is based on a composite of media moguls that included William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.
PBS’s “American Experience” will explore the story of America’s first media baron William Randolph Hearst in the cleverly-titled “Citizen Hearst,” an obvious nod to the Orson Welles masterpiece.At an early age, Hearst forsake the family business to find the newspaper game irresistible, and by the 1930s he controlled the largest media empire in the country, using it attain political power.A man with prodigious appetites, including his extravagant San Simeon castle, Hearst infamously carried on a decades-long affair with actress Marion Davies while remaining married to Millicent Hearst, the mother of his five sons.During the PBS press tour presentation, author and San Francisco historian Gary Kamiya observed that we “can’t separate our modern media and celebrity landscape from William Randolph Hearst. He created it in so many ways.”“Citizen Hearst” explores how everything the media mogul said and did was larger than life, taking note of his unorthodox approach to business as well as his complicated private life. The two episodes air on September 27th and 28th.