REVIEW: True Detective

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 9.17.46 PM TRUE DETECTIVE is an American anthology series staring Hollywood movie-stars  Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as  two Louisiana State Police detectives as they hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana across a seventeen year period. Currently airing on Australian TV via Showcase, True Detective is a grimy and well performed crime-drama meditating on base conscious of those investigating a horrific murder scene in a small town. As directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the episode begins with the two detectives separately recounting the beginning of the investigation into an meticulously constructed murder scene. From these opening scenes it is immediately obvious that these two individuals are on very different trajectories. While Martin Hart (Harrelson) is suited up and seemingly professional, if not hesitant and a little grumpy, Rust Cohle (McConaughey) is an openly aggressive man looking more like an aged trucker. Rust Cohle 2012 True Detective then jumps straight into the crime scene, which is particularly startling given its seeming immediacy, while also imposingly-beautiful in its photography. However, while beautifully shot, it is still a horrific display. What we, and more importantly the offices, bear witness to is a woman, Dora Kelly Lange, positioned facing the foot of a tree crouched naked with her hands tied to it and a ‘crown’ of deer antlers atop her head. It is then revealed that the due to an array of sores, bruises and shallow stab wounds that this woman was mostly likely rape. There is no point where it is not overtly clear that this woman saw the end to her life in one of the most horrific ways possible. The crime scene is a meticulously planned exhibition of primitive-seeming objects and symbols. The murderer that these detectives are dealing with is not only skilled, but also potentially enacting a form or ritual through this event. true detectives murder scene episode 1 While the murder scene and the individual(s) responsible for it are the forces driving the story forward and providing the main antagonist for the drama, they simply seem to exist more as a channel for the character study of Hart and Cohle, the detectives attempt the solve the case, and deal with its reproductions; both the career and emotional. Like any good cop drama, these two partners couldn’t be more dissimilar. Hart is set up as the man of the town, the family man, the calmer and more relax of the two, and utterly unpretentious. Cohle on the other hand, Cohle couldn’t be more different. This character as played by McConaughey seems to always be on edge. He doesn’t sleep, in his words, he can only dream. He is a deeply introverted character that is always attempting to philosophise his surrounding; always in search of greater truths and narratives – if not deeply pessimistic ones, no doubt aided to a degree by his daughter who died at an early age. McConaughey jumps between playing the character as though he is mechanical with no real value for life, and as a man longing for a grasp on it. The character always seems as though he is trying to keep himself in check, as though he is afraid of his own emotions and his  fragility. This is a hugely rich character that is presented as on the verge of unhinging, and one that is beautifully performed by the actor. He will no doubt present a breadth of material for viewing. Following the initial set-up, the direction of the episode heads down the fairly typical police show routes of venturing into the town and its people, fleshing out this small community. Through these scenes there are hints that the show could continue with race, parenting and religion as themes building up the tapestry of the show. morgue true detectives As the show pregresses when begin to jump more between scenes of past investigation and the present day interviews, which give the increasing impression that it is a second investigation, one that is into the two men and the process of working the Dora Kelly Lange case. Overall, True Detective is a meticulously and visually rich drama with subdued but powerful performances from both leads. It will be interesting to see how the stories, and characters unravel as they deal with the increasing pressures of the jobs, their towns and the impact of their emotional responses to the gruesomeness in humanity. Return in four weeks where I will take a second look at the show from the prospective of the half-way point.


Words by Luke Letourneau