Brooding Branagh Impresses as Swedish Detective on PBS

Denver Post, 1 October 2010
By Joanne Ostrow

Kenneth Branagh portrays Kurt Wallander, a soulful Swedish detective, in three new 90-minute Wallander stories beginning Sunday on PBS's "Masterpiece Mystery." (BBC )

The Swedes have enough to be gloomy about without the additional weight of solving hideous murders. The lack of sunshine, bland food, desolate landscapes, the ingrained existential brooding. Or is it too many meatballs? They've got that somber thing going on.

Kurt Wallander, soulful Swedish cop, travels by Volvo to a grim (but discretely filmed) crime scene at the start of the latest Wallander mystery, based on the novels by Henning Mankell.

Three new 90-minute Wallander stories unfold over three consecutive weeks: "Faceless Killers" on Sunday; "The Man Who Smiled," Oct. 10; and "The Fifth Woman," Oct. 17 on PBS's "Masterpiece Mystery," locally at 9 p.m. on KRMA-Channel 6.

With a stubbly gray beard and red-rimmed blue eyes, Kenneth Branagh portrays the detective whose troubles with family, friends and colleagues add to his burden.

In the first mystery, racial tensions and suspicions surrounding foreign migrant workers in a mostly homogenous country provide a strong subplot. Wallander's father, convincingly played by David Warner, suffers dementia and his daughter is dating a Syrian-Swede. Wallander begins to question his own deepest feelings about "foreigners."

For fans of "CSI" accustomed to zooming into blood vessels via gory computer graphics, the action here is a different kind of internal: meditative rather than anatomical. Long stretches of silence show the inspector deep in thought. Even surprising plot turns unfold with slow and steady, serious, moody music in the background.

It's Branagh's show and he makes it a mesmerizing character study.

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