movie film review | chris tookey

Spiral/ Engrenages (TV)

© Unknown - all rights reserved
  Spiral/ Engrenages (TV) Review
Tookey's Rating
10.00 /10
Average Rating
8.00 /10
Caroline Proust , Audrey Fleurot , Philippe Duclos
Full Cast >

Directed by: Jean-Marc Brondolo, Manuel Boursinhac, Frederic Jardin, Philippe Triboit, Frederic Mermoud, Pascal Chaumeil, Gilles Bannier, Virginie Sauveur, Frederic Balekdjian, Philippe Venault, Nicolas Guicheteau
Written by: Anne Landois,Thierry Depambour, Eric de Barahir, Virginie Brac, Simon Jablonka, Frank Henry, Alexandra Clert, Guy-Patrick Sainderichin, Kristel Mudry, Sebastien Vitoux, Laurent Vivier, Laurence Diaz, Laurent Burtin, Martin Garonne, Mathieu Missoffe, Cristina Arellano, Paul Berthier, Alysa Sun, Didier Le Pecheur, Lionel Olenga, Philippe Triboit, Clara Bourreau, Anne Viau, Olivier Fox. Created by Alexandra Clert and Guy-Patrick Sainderichin

Released: 2005
Origin: France
Length: 0

Spiral is France’s answer to The Wire – and I reckon it’s even better. It is grittier, darker and nastier, and it has the merit of not only being a police procedural. It covers the French legal system as well, and even examines corruption at the heart of the French administration (what a pity it doesn’t cover the more than questionable accounting practices of the European Union, seemingly a no-go area for TV drama).
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

This is a golden age for police procedurals, and two of the best have been the British series Happy Valley and Line of Duty. But to my mind, Spiral is the outstanding example in its genre, principally because it’s the most ambitious. There are many more plot-lines intertwining – at times I have been reminded of that great old American TV series Hill Street Blues – and the episodes aren’t afraid to investigate some very grim and topical issues. It has a Dickensian sweep to it.

Be warned that it is, at times, extremely gruesome. I’m not sure why the film-makers have to lavish quite so much fascinated attention on rotting and mutilated corpses. Buy hey, you can always look away.

In France, it was called “Engrenages”, which is more-or-less untranslatable, but suggests a machine with grinding gears. The English-language title “Spiral” suits the series very well, because it shows a legal system – and a society - spiralling out of anyone’s control.

The police practices are often hilariously corrupt and predicated on the blithe assumption that the end will always justify the means. Even the most sympathetic characters such as detective captain Laure Berthaud, superbly played by Caroline Proust (pictured third from right), would have had to take early retirement years ago, were they pulling these stunts in Britain. I have a special place in my heart for Berthaud’s over-achieving underling Gilou (Thierry Godard, pictured extreme right), enthusiastically addicted to hookers and cocaine, and preferably both simultaneously.

Even the idealistic chief prosecutor, Paul Clement (well-played by heartthrob Gregory Fitoussi, pictured third from left) is not above the odd shady deal, and his principal opponent/ lover/ arch-nemesis, the delectable redhead lawyer Josephine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot. pictured second from left), is a fabulous villain, driven by ambition, greed and lust – and that’s on her good days.

One of the innovative aspects of the later series is the way they make you start rooting for Mme Karlsson as she suffers a few personal and career reverses, discovers some long-buried finer feelings, and realises that there are some people in positions of influence even more wicked than she is.

The other principal anti-hero is Judge Francois Roban (Philippe Duclos, pictured second from right) who resembles a less laid-back Arsene Wenger. Roban regards himself as incorruptible - which he is by comparison with those above him in the hierarchy – but constantly cuts corners in the pursuit of what he regards as justice. Quirky to the point of weirdness and so obsessive that his eyes almost bore a hole in the screen, he makes the most biased British judge look a model of fairness.

The beauty of Spiral is that it examines French society with extraordinary ferocity, but also a lot of sympathetic insight. It was a hit in France, but it has found an enthusiastic minority following in America via Netflix, and in England, despite being hidden away and under-promoted on BBC4.Six series have been made, and a seventh (and final) season is on its way.

I rather envy anyone who has not yet seen it. I certainly wouldn’t mind going back to the start and watching it all over again.

Key to Symbols