Cornelia (Emily Blunt), an English woman, arrives in the wild West to take revenge. She wants to kill the man responsible for the death of her son. On the way to her quest, she comes across Eli (Chaske Spencer), an ex-Cavalry scout, who has his own mission (he wants to claim a piece of land on which he thinks he has a right due to his service in the US army). What they initially do not know is that their journey started and will stop at a shared past. The English follows this duo on their mission, and along the way, it introduces grisly murders, slaughtered cattle, and a hooded figure on horseback.
The English is shot with a wide-angle lens to lend it an air of epicness. The camera expands the dry landscape, and the yellow filter scorches it like hell. The lens flare often creates a short red line in the top left corner of the screen, temporarily, when the camera pans from left to right. That red line might be intentional or unintentional, but it appears like a line of blood. The camera seems to be drawing a mark of violence, which should tell you that this show can often get intense. After all, this is the kind of show where childbirth is witnessed by wolves from a distance. The implication is that life and death are intertwined like yin and yang. Every living being in The English comes in contact with violence. However, The English merely looks epic. Its substance is not so grand.
The job of an epic is not just to look expansive. It should reach that expansion by slowly opening up its themes and characters step by step. The English opens up all right, but it feels rushed. Take Cornelia, for instance. In the first episode, she gets uncomfortable while killing someone. She believes the whole country cannot be full of killers and murderers. Translation: She is innocent. On the way, she comes across many killers and murderers, and in the third episode, she kills two characters with less (or no) remorse and more confidence. This, let's say, immunity to violence doesn't seem to come slowly, step by step. Rather, it feels like a series of small leaps.
The English has some well-executed confrontations. They remind you of Quentin Tarantino's style (long conversations suddenly interrupted by violence). While every conflict is neatly handled, their full impact is diluted by their predictable nature. You smell every violent encounter from a mile and know exactly when one would take place. As a result, when these scenes unfold, you merely wait for someone to pull the trigger. The scene where Eli and Cornelia dodge bullets fired from an elevated platform lacks the most crucial element: Stress. Only one encounter manages to take you by surprise. It comes when Cornelia points her gun at a woman digging a grave.
On her way to take revenge, Cornelia takes up another task. She decides to take a child to her family. When Eli provides her with a compass, she says her path is straight ahead. Indeed, this objective is completed very straightforwardly, as it lacks any suspense. The delivery occurs without any obstacles. Three people look at Cornelia from a distance but do not interfere. Similarly, the English cuts off or undermines other features that could have injected it with more tension. One of them is the villain named David Melmont (Rafe Spall). When he barks on his horseback, he appears like a deadly psychopath. A few moments later, when we see her with Cornelia, our mind starts predicting disturbing scenarios. But David loses all his menace after his scene with Cornelia. Later, as we watch him smiling and kissing a gun held by someone, we don't behold him as a psychopath as his aura is devoid of intimidation.
The actors are excellent, though. Blunt and Spencer make us believe that Eli and Cornelia are made for each other and that their encounter was written in the stars. But it's Valerie Pachner, as Martha Myers, who ends up stealing the spotlight from everyone. Her confident demeanor attracts our attention and makes sure that as long as she is on the screen, our eyes remain fixed on her. Another strength of The English is its dialogues. They are sharply edited and prevent the scenes from drowning into dullness. As a result, each episode flows smoothly without making us restless. The English is definitely worth a watch, but it could have been better.
Final Score- [7/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
Follow @vikasonorous on Twitter
Publisher at Midgard Times
Note: All six episodes are screened for this review.
Premiere Date: November 11, 2022, on Prime Video
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