[A taut, twisty new series from Amazon and the BBC touches on
race, class, immigration and terrorism.] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 'INFORMER': TV REVIEW  
[https://portside.org/2019-01-20/informer-tv-review] 

 

 Tim Goodman 
 January 10, 2019
Hollywood Reporter
[https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/informer-review-1174877] 

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 _ A taut, twisty new series from Amazon and the BBC touches on race,
class, immigration and terrorism. _ 

 Nabhaan Rizwan stars in Informer., Amazon 

 

Having already churned out the immensely popular and
acclaimed _Bodyguard _(despite some well-earned quibbles about
implausibility), Britain sends its next big deal to the States with
the BBC One and Amazon series _Informer — _which mostly manages to
be deeper and vastly more believable. American audiences seeking
something a little different should jump on this one as well.

Slick enough to be compelling in the early going and cleverly
constructed enough to maintain interest thereafter, _Informer_ makes
viewers wonder about both previously formed opinions and potential
twists to come, which is half the battle for attention. The series
immediately sets the hook with three standout performances before
slowly proving that its ensemble has other surprises up its sleeve.

Created and written by Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani and directed
by Jonny Campbell (_The Casual Vacancy_, _In the
Flesh_), _Informer _benefits from its consistent vision and
willingness to be ambitious. The series starts with a feint — a
woman leaves a cellphone on a commuter train and a man sitting across
from her picks it up, gets off the train to give it to her, tracks her
to a local cafe and moments after returning it finds himself in the
middle of a random, bloody shooting spree as someone opens fire in the
cafe.

That will eventually lead to a reveal, but it's not immediately the
story that _Informer _wants to tell (each episode begins with that
cafe shooting told from a new perspective, however). In the beginning,
it's just a way for Haines and Noshirvani to let the audience meet DS
Gabe Waters (Paddy Considine, _Peaky Blinders_), a counter-terrorist
officer who responded to the shooting and has deeper ties to
it._ Informer _then pivots and jumps back one year and we meet Raza
Shar (Nabhaan Rizwan), a Pakistani in East London who scores some
pills and goes out dancing with his girlfriend before she has a bad
reaction and almost dies in the club. 

If you're paying attention, a couple of early, intriguing trends pop
up in _Informer_. It's unabashedly about race and class, about
immigration and English identity (the man returning the phone is
black; another is an older Asian man who works at the cafe and can't
speak English very well; Raza has a white girlfriend; and in short
order we find out that Gabe, previously working undercover to bring
down some white supremacists, is sporting tattoos from the assignment
that still has him experiencing PTSD). There are characters who are
Muslim, Albanian, African and the list goes on as _Informer _uses
the melting pot of modern Britain to underscore the issues still front
and center there (and in the U.S., of course — British television
has just done a better, more thoughtful job in this regard).

It's a lot to bite off, and not even the early focus of the series.
Gabe gets a new partner, Holly Morten (Bel Powley), who looks all of
16 and whose direct, tactless demeanor has those in the
counter-terrorist group joking about her all-business nature when it's
much more likely that she's on the spectrum. Holly is tasked by Gabe
to work on recruiting more informants, an issue that becomes more
pressing when one of Gabe's reliable leads is killed. The duo manage
to tweak the charges on Raza, thinking he's a good candidate, but it
isn't until Holly's diligence uncovers that Raza's mother has
overstayed her visa by at least 16 years and could be deported that
they convince Raza — who is at best a low-level thief — to work
essentially as an undercover informant. (If you're looking for more
examples of_ Informer _being ambitious in its storytelling, how it
handles whether Raza's mother is really his mother is pretty
interesting.)

In his short time in jail (roughly 24 hours), Raza meets Dadir Hassan
(Roger Jean Nsengiyumva), whom everybody thinks is a drug dealer (a
running "joke" that's less joke than an indictment of profiling). As
it turns out, Dadir's brother is Gabe's dead informant and Gabe has
Raza start hanging out as much as possible with Dadir. While there are
a couple of early coincidences that are too convenient (though not
nearly as many as in _Bodyguard_), everything holds together
precisely because Rizwan, Nsengiyumva and Considine give excellent,
magnetic performances.

This is particularly impressive for Rizwan, a star in the making,
since this is his first TV role. Nsengiyumva is also someone who
commands the camera. The more veteran but always strong Considine adds
that third layer of unpredictability to the mix. And with Campbell,
the director, ratcheting up the sense that things are going to go
sideways and something bad is imminent, _Informer _is able to tautly
maneuver through the tricky twists that Haines and Noshirvani lay out.

Not all of it works. But the bulk of it does, and there are ongoing
surprises along the way that deepen the story. Viewers can eagerly
burn through the six episodes (but it's fairly anxiety-producing, so
maybe piecemeal is better). 

Even when _Informer _hits some potholes (and plot holes), it stays
on track because Rizwan, Nsengiyumva and Considine never flag in their
performances. It's truly great work from all of them. As the episodes
unfold, plenty of other surprising turns from the extended cast also
emerge, including Jessica Raine as Gabe's wife, Emily (although more
of her would have been better); Sunetra Sarker as Raza's mom; and
Arsher Ali as an undercover cop.

Whereas the conspiracy in _Bodyguard _was this confusing mess that
often tested patience when it got too implausible, the rest of it was
pretty straightforward (and yes, entertaining). But there's more
dramatic ambition at the core of _Informer_, and_ _the same level of
barn-burning pace and action. The good news is you don't have to
choose. But _Informer _doesn't yet have the buzz of _Bodyguard_, so
don't lose sight of it. 

_Cast: Paddy Considine, Bel Powley, Nabhaan Rizwan, Jessica Raine,
Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Sharon D. Clarke, Sunetra Sarker, Arsher Ali
Written and created by: Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani
Directed by: Jonny Campbell
Premieres: Friday (Amazon Prime)_

	* TIM GOODMAN
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