Manhunt, released by Acorn Media, recreates the story of the police investigation into the horrific murder of three young women in London, England. Based on the memoir of Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton – played by Martin Clunes – the three episode show takes us into the grind and tedium of the long hours and attention to detail required to capture a killer.
When a young French woman is found dead in a park in London DCI Sutton is called in to be Senior Investigating Officer (SIO). With no forensic evidence, witnesses or motive Sutton realizes he’s in for a long haul. He and his team of officers are going to have sift through mountains of potential evidence in the hopes of finding even the smallest lead in order to track down their killer.
After watching probably miles of CCTV footage they spot a white van cruising the neighbourhood. While they’re able to identify its make and a few other distinguishing features, neither the registration number (licence plate) nor the driver are visible. Aside from the van the only thing they have to go on is the method used in the attack – she was killed by a hammer blow to the skull.
For those used to the fast paced action of American TV police shows the pacing and attention to paperwork detail might take some getting used to. However, somehow the combination of script and acting slowly draws you into the proceedings. In the end Manhunt is as thrilling as any police show as we share the officers excitement as they narrow down their suspect pool and eventually find their killer.
For those accustomed to watching Clunes in more comedic roles his performance as the driven Sutton is a revelation. Not only does he capture the man’s dedication, but also his flaws. This is best shown in his relationship with his wife Louis (Claudia Balkely) a police analyst with the Surry force.
When it turns out the killer DCI Sutton is chasing may have been responsible for a murder in Surry, he storms into their area like a bull in a china shop without any concern on how that will impact his wife’s job. The strain on their marriage this causes is depicted without melodrama, but is all the more real because of it.
In this way Manhunt does a great job of not only detailing the difficulties of police work, but the subtle ways it can impact home life. Sutton skips out on a planed family event, going to his brother in laws wedding in Spain, in order to chase down a possible clue. He even forgets arrangements with his daughter to celebrate his own birthday because he’s become so wrapped up in the case.
Manhunt takes us through an entire investigation, from the commitment of the crime, through the police identifying their culprit, to their accumulating sufficient evidence for him to be charged by the Crown Prosecuting Service (CPS). Unless the CPS think they can make a case against a culprit, all the hours the officers put into an investigation are wasted.
Which explains why their paper work has to be immaculate so there can be a clear line of evidence linking the suspect to the crime. We hardly ever see this part of police work, let alone have it presented in such a compelling manner.
Interestingly enough, considering his very good performance, in the interview included as a special feature with the Blu-ray of Manhunt, Clunes mentions he’s resisted playing a detective until now. This was the first role of the type he’d been offered which interested him sufficiently to take it on. While all the supporting cast is wonderful, the show really does centre on his performance, and he carries that weight effortlessly and admirably.
Manhunt is a remarkably gripping police procedural which succeeds because of quality acting and an intriguing script. If you want a change of pace in your police shows, this is the show for you.