Posted by: Paul | March 31, 2010

Blood and Oil

Naomie Harris, Jodhi May and David Oyelowo in the BBC's 2 part thriller Blood and Oil

I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Jodhi May’s shoes for this role. For much of the 2hr 40 running time of this new 2 part BBC thriller about the politics of oil, and corruption in African nations, she’s either screaming hysterically or sobbing uncontrollably. And who could blame her, after schlepping all the way out to Nigeria to wait for her kidnapped oil worker husband to be released, only to find he’s been brutally murdered?

I’ve watched Jodhi May in a lot of things, most recently as Mrs Weston in the BBC adaptation of Emma, and perhaps most memorably in Stephen Poliakoff’s Friends and Crocodiles a few years back, and always rated her highly as an actress, but she tore the paint off the walls in this. How would you react if you were being taken to collect your husband after his release from a group of intermediaries, to round a bend in the river and find the terrible sight of him hanging with his colleagues from the roof of a shack? Her performance was 100% convincing and it was difficult to watch.

Though it was a bit fast paced and complex for a simpleton like myself to follow in its entireity – especially as my viewing of the first episode was a little lacking in attention while I proofed my own script – the whole thing was shot through with authenticity and atmosphere. I kept looking at the action and wondering how many security guards must have surrounded the crew and actors so they could film without disturbance or theft – Nigeria was painted as a dangerous, desperate place and I was sold on the idea. There were crooks everywhere you turned – in the oil companies, the Government, the military and police force. Those painted as the ‘bad guys’ initially, the kidnappers / militants / freedom fighters / activists had complex motivation and the story came together slowly but surely as May’s uncovering of her husband’s dealings and secret life in Nigeria began to unfold, revealing a web of lies and corruption reaching as far as the British Government who clearly wanted her out of Nigeria and to do no further digging. There were no good guys here.

*SPOILER* It did not end well for May – any better than it began really. Perhaps even worse than the murder of her husband was her discovery of his betrayal, and my favourite scene of the whole thing was her confrontation with his ‘other woman’ in a crowded gospel ceremony, May sneaking up behind her and whispering her infidelities and crimes into her ear. Chilling stuff.

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