Off the back of a disastrous anti-terrorism operation, which resulted in the death of an innocent man, whistle-blowing Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott is recruited to join the AC-12 Anti-Corruption unit. Unsure of his role, Arnott is assigned the high profile Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates as a target for investigation.
Despite being an award winning officer, Gates has aroused suspicion by posting the best crime figures for three years running and is alleged to be cherry-picking cases, to the detriment of less glamorous but equally deserving crimes. Gates runs a close knit, laddish team, dubbed “the big, sexy crime unit”, and is clearly idolised by then.
Lennie James gives a tremendously charismatic performance as Gates, who clearly loves the limelight and seems highly motivated. Behind his impressive professional persona there are cracks though, as his apparently happy home life with wife Jools (Kate Ashfield) and their daughters is supplemented by a dangerous relationship with old fling Jackie Laverty (Gina Mckee) – a woman who clearly knows how to manipulate him and get what she wants. As Gates tries to shrug off the investigation, complications with Laverty conspire to draw him into a dangerous web of intrigue with Arnott always one step behind.
Martin Compston as Steve Arnott has the difficult role of attempting to gather evidence on Gates and at times their battle, which slides from personal to professional, seems like situation akin to David vs. Goliath. Aiding him is DS Kate Fleming, played by Vicky McClure, who they manage to get into Gates’ team undercover by exploiting his shocking gender imbalance.
As well as piling on the tension through the twists and turns of the case, the show takes a look at the dilemmas of modern policing. Crime figures rather than actual solving seem to be most important, with the human touch lost in the pressure to achieve results. Lesser duties are delegated to a civilian police assistant who seems barely capable of her job and easily manipulated.
While the show is impressively cast throughout, one particularly worthy of mention is Neil Morrissey’s role as Detective Sergeant Nigel Morton. Utterly against type, his role is unflattering and becomes downright nasty; a far cry from his usual comic fare.
Line of Duty plays a clever game, drawing you in and increasing the stakes as it delivers some jaw dropping moments. Watching the five episodes on DVD we found the show compulsive viewing as, despite some of his questionable actions and decisions, Gates remains a very sympathetic character throughout. We were torn between willing the investigation against him to succeed and at the same time wanting him to get away with it. In the end, the result delivers a satisfying conclusion while leaving doors open for the future too.
Extras: The main extra is an excellent 30-minute documentary on the making of the series. As well as input from both directors and the writer, the members of the principal cast discuss their attraction to the project and the filming of some scenes. However, given the ambition of the story, and the sheet enthusiasm with which it was created, it is a crying shame that there are no audio commentaries.
Released on DVD on Monday 3 February 2014 by Acorn Media.
Watch the Series 1 trailer…
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