The Little Drummer Girl is a new six-part drama which begins in West Germany, 1979, at the Diplomatic Residential area, Bad Godesbury where, thanks to an unfortunate set of circumstances, a bomb goes off with devastating circumstances.
As the synopsis states, there are a number of deadly attacks targeting prominent Jewish figures across Europe over the course of a number of weeks, and senior Israeli intelligence agent Martin Kurtz (Michael Shannon) – who is the man who knows what’s going on when it comes to the bad guys, believes there is a Palestinian revolutionary causing all the trouble, his aim being to nail the kingpin, Khalil (Charif Ghattas).
It took a little bit of time to get to grips with the style of this drama, in that the main character, Charlie Ross (Florence Pugh), is an aspiring actress, but I thought she was being interviewed by someone, and no, it’s an audition, and later we see her in the the pub with friends.
Depsite having a boyfriend, along the way she meets Joseph (Alexander Skarsgard) and there’s something about his tall, athletic body and chisled good looks which attracts her. Can’t think what it is, but those facets are nothing I have to personally concern myself with.
The first episode took in Cologne, West Germany, then Mossad, Israel, and so on, and basically, they’re globetrotting as much as a Star Wars movie (well, they trot from one globe to another, but you know what I mean). At one point, the drama travelled to the Olympic Village in Munich, but it’s actually the Alexandra Road Estate but with added CGI to the backdrop. The estate frequents TV dramas, so I can spot it a mile off for its parkour-fans design.
It’s difficult to get a handle on it purely based on one episode, as it’s just 1/6th of a story, but I certainly will check out more of it. I do like that it certainly does effect the ’70s vibe, and it also has a cracking cast with Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Shannon leading the way, as well as bringing in Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden) to direct it!
As an aside, I’ll add that it makes a pleasant change to see a TV series in 16:9, these days, as so many are presented in a slightly wider 2.00:1, which is the mode these days. Quite why, I don’t know, but it seems to have been started with Netflix’s reboot of House of Cards.
Like with any review, I always avoid spoilers. For this particular drama, there are certain things I cannot state which I wouldn’t do anyway, as I figure they’re things you have to find out for yourself and, of course, if I did reveal them now, then there’d be zero point in watching the drama.
(And yes, I know it’s based on a novel which has been out for 35 years, but not everyone will be familiar with the story, myself included, as I’m coming to this completely fresh)
In addition, when I see previews, there are never subtitles available, which is a shame when Shannon’s apparently doing an Israeli accent, as it took me a little while – and a few rewinds of his words – to understand what he was saying. When it’s broadcast, you’ll be able to use subtitles!
The series is adapted from a John le Carré novel, as was 2016’s The Night Manager, and I loved that, so I’ll definitely stick with this.
Episode 2 had some confusing elements as the two leads talk about their backstory while she is recruited by him – and this plays out onscreen in vignettes as the explanation is heard over the top.
I do still get the feeling that things will come together a bit more, though, but I’d rather they made it easier to follow along the way, given that these episodes are playing out weekly and are not all available to watch in one go.
One of the best things, though, was a scene with Michael Shannon and others, all eating 1970s rocket lollies! (which, according to a search, are available in Iceland for £1 for a pack of 10).
Episodes 3 and 4: Both were either quite slow, or just getting so twisty-turny that it disappears up its backside, so it was difficult to enjoy them, but I’m hoping this is just a mid-series lull before it perks up again. Either way, overall, it’s not as good as the aforementioned The Night Manager.
Episode 5: This continued the trend set by this series. I was completely losing track of this as it was like watching a number of different scenes all plugged in together in random order. I’m hoping the finale improves.
Episode 6: More meandering, and taking an age to get to where it was going. There was action in the last ten minutes as we saw what the gang was up to next, but this is definitely a series which would’ve been better watched in one sitting, rather than in six weekly instalments, so should’ve been on the iPlayer from day one. I doubt it would’ve harmed ratings to do so, and it’s the way TV has become, as we’re in the days of Netflix and Amazon Prime.
I feel like the series quickly slowed down to a crawl and just stayed in that rut.
The Little Drummer Girl begins this Sunday on BBC1 at 9pm, and after each episode, they will be on the BBC iPlayer.
The series is not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Episode 1 Score: 6/10
Episode 2 Score: 5/10
Episode 3 Score: 4/10
Episode 4 Score: 4/10
Episode 5 Score: 4/10
Episode 6 Score: 3/10
Director: Park Chan-wook
Producer: Laura Hastings-Smith
Executive Producers: Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Arthur Wang, Joseph Tsai, John le Carré, Park Chan-wook, Wonjo Jeong, Michael Lesslie
Writer: Michael Lesslie
Novel: John le Carré
Charlie Ross: Florence Pugh
Joseph: Alexander Skarsgard
Martin Kurtz: Michael Shannon
Shimon Litvak: Michael Moshonov
Salim Al-Khadar: Amir Khoury
Dr Paul Alexis: Alexander Beyer
Rachel: Simona Brown
Schwilli: Gennady Fleisher
Aaron Fineberg: Vitali Friedland
Khalil Al-Khadar: Charif Ghattas
Paulie: Tom Hanson
Willie: Edward Davis
Miss Bach: Clare Holman
Al: Max Irons
Daniel: Daniel Litman
Sophie: Bethany Muir
Mario Rossino: Alessandro Piavani
Rose: Kate Sumpter
Pub Theatre Manager: Shane Attwooll
Mrs Fineberg: Shani Erez
Gabriel Fineberg: Micah Gordon
Oded: Roee Adar
Anna Witgen: Iben Akerlie
Noah Gavron: Shlomo Bar-Aba
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.