The English Television Review

Ground: An aristocratic Englishwoman, Lady Cornelia Locke, and an ex-Pawnee cavalry scout, Eli Whipp, reunite in 1890 Central America to traverse a violent landscape built on dreams and blood. Both have a clear idea of ​​their destiny, but neither is aware that it is rooted in a common past. They must face increasingly terrifying obstacles that will test them physically and psychologically. But as each obstacle is overcome, it brings them closer to their ultimate destination: the new town of Hoxem, Wyoming. It is here, after local sheriff Robert Marshall and young widow Martha Myers investigate a series of bizarre and grisly unsolved murders, that the full extent of their intertwined history will be truly understood and they will reunite. face to face. with the future they have to live.

Exam: Westerns have taken many forms over the years, from action to sweeping epics to pulpy dramas and more. Over the past two decades, independent filmmakers have used the 19th-century American West as a landscape to tell unique stories about characters that might not have been as impactful in other genres. Thanks to streaming platforms, the continued rise of quality limited series has allowed storytellers to tell voluminous stories over multiple episodes with English as a great combination of the western genre with the independent sensibilities of a character-driven narrative. With two excellent lead performances from Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer, English presents itself as a very entertaining and powerful series.

Set in 1890, English presents the journeys of two main characters. We are first introduced to Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer), a member of the Pawnee who also served as a decorated soldier in the Civil War. A skilled warrior and grieving soul, Eli must travel to claim the land that is rightfully his, but also to fight prejudice and racist attitude towards the native peoples of white, American and non-American settlers. His path crosses that of Lady Cornelia Locke (Emily Blunt), a woman desperately hunting down the man who killed her son. The two soon discover that they share things in common and Eil reluctantly joins Cornelia on her travels and the pair discover their shared history. Based on the trailer, I expected this story to be very different from what it actually is, with much of each episode devoted to exploring the individual motivations behind Cornelia’s travels. and Eli rather than trying to connect them. It helps that Emily Blunt delivers a solid performance which is complemented by Chaske Spencer who is stellar in a role that is largely the lead in this story.

As Cornelia and Eli’s stories progress, we also spend a lot of time in the border town of Hoxem, Oklahoma. This is where the character stories will inevitably arrive and we are slowly introduced to the powers led by Thomas Trafford (Tom Hughes) and Sheriff Robert Marshall (Stephen Rea). There are clearly things that change when it comes to the power dynamics in Hoxem and how she connects to Cornelia and Eli is one of the fundamentally exciting parts of The English. With each of the series’ six episodes clocked in at an hour, there’s no wasted time as the story manages to transform even a slowly orchestrated landscape into a cinematic and artistic moment that feels like it’s several minutes long and yet only takes seconds of the episode. This is a truly beautifully shot series thanks to the cinematography of Arnau Valls Colomer (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) that turns the Spanish countryside into a lookalike of 1800s America.

What I also found exciting English was not only the way he modernized the Western genre, but also its tradition. There are so many movies that this series reminds me of, including Kevin Costner’s Open range, by Clint Eastwood Unforgiven, by Sam Raimi Dead or alive, and classic Man with No Name spaghetti westerns starring Eastwood. Chaske Spencer is a solid successor as a stoic cowboy of few words who is as formidable a fighter as he is a tactician. It’s not lost on this production that the heroic cowboy hero isn’t a cowboy at all, but it makes even more interesting how the character balances his native roots with his life lived among whites. Spencer is truly something special in this series and it’s a well-deserved role after shining in Cinemax Banshee. Emily Blunt, for her part, doesn’t play her character like a fish out of water or a hardened fighter, but oscillates between guilt when she kills someone and steel-eyed determination as she seeks to take revenge.

Series creator Hugo Blick, who wrote and directed all six episodes, has an eye for the formula of a hit western. English is steeped in a wide palette that takes advantage of washed-out deserts and sweeping plains vistas in equal measure. Blick never shy away from the grotesque violence of the era while taking advantage of the fun aspects of the genre to make villains dastardly and heroes inspiring. Nor does he try to make this series indulgent like Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist films. Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight but clearly knows its cinematic history as this series echoes the pulpy films of Sergio Leone with an equally memorable score courtesy of composer Federico Jusid. There are also so many recognizable faces in this series ranging from Toby Jones and Rafe Spall to Ciaran Hinds and more that I sometimes forgot I was watching a TV series and not an epic movie.

English is a great story that works like a Western for non-Western fans but will also captivate the most avid followers of the genre. Emily Blunt gives one of her strongest performances in quite some time and Chaske Spencer is pleading to be cast as the lead in a number of projects after that. Thanks to the deep pockets of Amazon Studios and the BBC, English is a hit as a long-running series and cinematic experience. It’s a bloody, violent, and emotional revenge story that upends genre expectations while reverently following their path. It’s definitely a great showcase for Hugo Blick as a director, as it is for all the acting talent involved. English is a great story in one of the most iconic genres of all time.

English premieres on November 11 on Prime Video.

8