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Watching in German language is the only way to do this series justice, as subtitles really do melt away under the acting power of Jannis Niewöhner as the affable but anarchic Beat and Alexander Fehling as the sociopathic Vossberg, among other convincing performances.
From a critical standpoint, the portrayal of the 'ESI' is perhaps a little unconvincing and at worst clichéd, Jasper's story-line falls somewhat flat of the wider plot and everything happens in a stage-managed environment where the media doesn't seem to interfere and the real police only show up when called upon. However, some suspension of disbelief is always demanded in all storytelling and the story grips hold of you and twists and turns until you feel some of the pain and dread of the characters themselves. This is where 'Beat' succeeds and earns its credibility as a surprisingly compelling and powerful piece of TV/cinema that just happens to be set against an edgy Berlin clubland setting. That it is is no bad thing though, as the setting lends itself to a great music score and gritty backdrop to this original and highly enjoyable epic.
Overall, I think the story was fairly complex and only at the very end you are able to unroll the layers. Dubbing wasn't that good but i guess there are no good dubbing out there.
At times, I felt some of the flashbacks were a bit much but I also don't like flashbacks in general.
A bit more detail about the main players:
The main hero is a conflicted techno club organizer that is being manipulated (I don't have to give up anything but it's much more than it seems) into being a under cover agent for secret service.
Bad guy seems to be cold blooded, calculating and extremely intelligent; thus proving a worthy opponent.
The secret police is more of a challenge. You never know where they stand and what they want. Only later we know realize their true motives. Keeps things very interesting.
Music is techno and visuals are bit dark and lots of gray. I was never a clubber myself, but I think I could see them doing a good job with it, that at times I felt I was in that chaos, where anything and everything was OK.
Overall, I enjoyed it.
First Episodes may be hard to get invested in, but in Episode 4 it is hard to stop watching until you get forced to with the End of Episode 7. Phenomenal actors and grittier. That is adult TV par excellence. It has some weak points with the spy things, but well it was an easy plot to get. ;)
Anyway - 7 Episodes, worth the time and you may get more invested in it as you expect yourself. Have fun.
P.S: and if you like Techno you will get some nice Tracks to listen to. Really happy they kept that part very real with deep basses and driving sounds. My friend does not like Techno but still liked it all. He said: Made more sense then all the spy stuff at some stages ^^
You have sympathy for orphaned as a child BEAT but you come to realize he is one messed up guy with a conscience and a strong sense of right and wrong unless it interferes with his drug taking habit and partying. So in that, Jannis Niewöhner did a pretty good job I'd say of presenting an anti-hero of sorts.
The rest of the cast is pretty good too. The emotionless bad guy that will sell his Mother's organs if had to, Secret Service head and the woman handler that cares about him (when every one else uses him), his well meaning but somewhat clueless best friend, his creepy childhood psycho secret admirer, etc. A lot of variety in characters that kept me interested. And ya, they even threw in your perfunctory Russian Mob gun smugglers and human traffickers...just for good measure.
The show was a thriller from the point of view if he bites it in the end or not as a result of all the dirt he has on the bad guys (and to a lesser extent, if he finally gets to find out who his parents are).
All in all, pretty good. And yes, you hinge on every facial nuance of BEAT through the whole series.
It's impossible to write an extended review without spoiling too much of the plot, so I'll keep it short. "Beat" is a German thriller / crime show; it's incredibly well acted with Jannis Niewöhner, Herfurth and Kostja Ullmann (what a pleasant surprise!) shining in their roles. The pace is at times a bit slow, but it never feels out of place and keeps you at the edge of your seat - it's such a gripping, dark storyline. The soundtrack is just superb!
While I did think there were some plotholes, the overall impression is still great. The English translation is mostly well done (can't agree with a reviewer before me), I'm a German and paid attention when I was watching it with my english-speaking partner.
Highly recommended. I hope this show gets some more attention!
The problem for new detective shows, is that the writer needs a person that would naturally be moving around within a situation with a reason to be able to move between societal strata. The detective, the busybody old lady, the vicar, the lawyer, the spy, its' a limited pool. A club promoter is a clever addition. We believe BEAT would be able to be at operate with the very rich and also be credible to the more hand to mouth clubber as well.
He's an obvious replacement for James Bond in that sense, this hero is not a misogynist, he believes in the power of collective unity, he is innocent and cynical. Bond is cynical through experience. BEATS character is likeable in that sense, vulnerable. His 'handler' Amelia is concerned for him but not in love with him, in thats sense he is the 'Damsel in distress' and she is his knight in shining armour, it's a nice twist with classical undertones as she gives him gun training to protect him, but also to draw him into the 'Quest'.
Clever editing cuts between two often quite different storylines, as things happen simultaneously. Great trick to extend viewers engagement as we process two things at the same time. And contrast in general is used really well all the time that paradox between a strong sense of family and that desire to be hedonistic and escape from it all is used to great effect. We believe BEAT is a self-centred pleasure monkey AND a caring man too.
OUR VILLAIN is very good, establishing from the start that the more he attempts to be normal and charming the more chilling he becomes. He's a real monologue guy a proper BOND villain, puzzled by morality and humanity but not challenged by it he's aimless, unlike old villains, thats more scary. The chunkier the sweater the colder he seems. Beautiful understatement as he stands with another monster waiting for the coffee machine to complete its cycle, heart beat probably at 48 bpm
SO MUCH POTENTIAL HERE...keep going, the club origin is now back story for a potentially great character as he grows and navigates an amoral universe.
Amelia says absolutely nothing and just stares at the doctor as he speaks, so powerful, power held back, just this stare. This makes me feel she is tougher and cooler than any amount of shoot out action.
I feel this is being made by a team that think obliquely, see pitfalls and cliches and actively work through them or steer away from them totally taking the heroic quest and making it as nuanced and morally ambiguous as the 21st century deserves.
One star held back, because the score is good, BUT come on guys decades of techno to draw on a more 'Tarantino' approach is advised. Enjoy those tunes more. HE LOVES TECHNO, share that with us old clubbers a bit more.
Despite that unevenness I found it was absorbing enough. I watched it with English-subtitles as my Deutsch is poor.
Sometimes there were double-subtitles if characters spoke Russian (Deutsch subtitles), which obscured the English subtitles, annoying.
Chaotic early scenes lead to more straightforward later episodes. Difficult to care for the cokeheads from these early episodes.
Somewhat difficult to see the relationships as anything other than superficial for most of the episodes, although the plot requires a blood-brothers type of connection to accept later plot twists.
Some twists are obvious long before they happen. At least once scene is incomprehensible. An earlier main character suicides in Episode-5, so it's somewhat a mess but somehow works overall.
It allows a few of the main characters to engage in philosophy at times, which is engaging for that genre.
One might think differently at Berghain, if sober, after seeing this :-)
Alas, I felt no empathy for the main characters or interests in the plots: the direction is too conventional and full of too obvious effects. For example: as the main character hesitates to collaborate with the police, you get a 3 seconds close-up on his tense hands (E02). Before that, when he becomes aware that he cannot spend his life under drugs, you see him throwing away cokes and starting some .. crunchs. Yes! The first things he does to start a new life is working on his abds! This is just ridiculous. I'm soooo disappointed. I won't even continue watching this to work on my german.