The Salisbury Poisonings [6/10]

A recounting of a bizarre event that occurred as recently as 2018, exactly as the title says, “The Salisbury Poisonings” is as fresh as headlines. Indeed, usage of news footage unfurling the Russian nerve agent poisoning of two Soviet ex-spies in a peaceful British town is one of the devices employed dramatically by the directors and scriptwriters. Real-event dramas can readily leach narrative tension or flow, simply because the facts must be observed, but this four-part series manages to forestall that pitfall by focusing heavily on two core participants in the thick of things. Rafe Spall is flawless as a hapless police officer early on the scene, and, even more vital to the story, Ann-Marie Duff captures the horrid pressures on the key public safety official. Perhaps the echoing shape of Covid-19 invigorates the early episodes – I mean, this incredibly deadly toxin is creepily like the pandemic – but I found myself horrified at an event I’d barely followed at the time. The later episodes lose potency as a result, but the storyline artfully segues into a study of post-traumatic stress. The Salisbury Poisonings could have been a lame retelling using cutout performances overlaid by a dreary voice, instead it is a skillfully made, absorbing drama well worth your time.

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