5. The Long Take
For those who are sticklers for the long takes of Stanley Kubrick or Alfonso Cuaron – be prepared for Cary Fukunaga’s take to the task. In episode four of True Detective, entitled “Who Goes There,” there is a long shot that lasts for 6 ½ minutes – not exactly the longest long take ever, but it’s not the length that matters, it’s what occurs during this shot that is so flat-out impressive.
With no spoilers, we’ll simply say that the ending of episode four is when the show really begins to pick up the pace with its story. If it had been any other show, the final scene of the episode probably would have been filmed with normal cuts, possibly even fast cuts to make it all seem more thrilling, but this is True Detective, and Cary Fukunaga does not want you to forget that. He manages to jam a huge, neighborhood-spanning gunfight in an exhilarating six-minute take – a scene that will surely go down in history as one of the greatest of all time.
4. Cary Fukunaga – A Director to Watch For
As mentioned above, Cary Fukunaga does not want you to forget that you’re watching a show directed by him, and him only. Fukunaga helms all eight of season one’s episodes – and he executes it all perfectly. He retains a perfect pace throughout the series, slow when drama is high, fast when tension is heavy. Fukunaga’s two feature films, Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre (2011), are both directed with wonderful beginner’s confidence, but the director truly outdoes himself with his work on True Detective.
The thing with Fukunaga is you can tell he puts every bit of effort he has into each shot he displays on the screen. Every shot has a meaning. He has complete control over the audience, with perfectly shot frame after perfectly shot frame. Cary Fukunaga, now established, is definitely a director to watch for. His future projects currently include Beasts of No Nation, Noble Assassin, and a remake of Stephen King’s It.
3. Woody Harrelson’s Impeccable Acting Ability
Woody Harrelson has always been a greatly underrated actor. Even in his not-so-great films, Harrelson is usually a gem, the highlight of the film. In True Detective, Woody plays Marty Hart – a subtle enigma of a man. Going against many of his and society’s basic moral principles through his ongoing struggles with monogamy (among other issues), Marty still remains a likeable character, simply because we know he’s a flawed man in a flawed world. We can’t help but feel sorry for the guy at times. Had Marty been performed by any other actor, though, I fear the character wouldn’t have been nearly as likeable or sympathetic. There’s a hurt in Woody Harrelson’s eyes that is all too convincing.
2. The McConaissance Continues
By now, it’d be belaboring on the obvious to say that Matthew McConaughey has made a complete 180 with his career. Once taken seriously in his beginning years as an actor (see:A Time to Kill), McConaughey soon slipped into a slump that seemed like it would last forever. He was typecasted into one awful romantic-comedy after another, for YEARS.
It wasn’t until 2011 that we witnessed a rare, and rather unpredictable phenomenon. McConaughey slowly revitalized his career with a small barrage of great films,released within a three year window, and proved just how good his range as an actor was. A slick and fast-talking attorney in The Lincoln Lawyer, a rather terrifying psycho-killer in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, a nutball once again in The Paperboy, a moody yet likeable ex-convict in Mud,a hilarious male stripper in Magic Mike, an inspiring, AIDS-ridden hero in Dallas Buyers Club, and a cocaine-fueled stock broker in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Where once he was a shirtless, wooden actor, he is a now an acclaimed performer holding an Oscar in his hands.Now with True Detective, McConaughey has not only delivered to us his absolute best performance, but he’s also crafted a character (literally, he crafted it: the man wrote a 400-page biography on his role before production began…) that is – well, basically pretty flat-out awesome. Playing Rust Cohle, a self-proclaimed pessimist and intensely serious detective, McConaughey deserves all the Emmys the press could give him for his deeply dark turn in this show.
1. Brave, Fearless Writing from Nic Pizzolatto
Where did this guy come from?! Before we even had the chance to look, Nic Pizzolatto came blazing onto the writing scene with his work on True Detective. Just as Cary Fukunaga directed each episode of the 8-chapter season, Pizzolatto wrote each episode – and I can’t decide which is a more impressive task.
Pizzolatto is the puppeteer of this story, and he crafts each twist and turn with concise precision. His pen is a knife. Through all the brilliance of his perfectly-constructed story, there is still the above-mentioned relevance to today’s society which lies within Pizzolatto’s writing. He manages to craft a totally enthralling story while still touching upon the underlying issues of the contemporary world – religion, feminism, violence, and more.
Not only does that make True Detective a truly remarkable feat, but it also makes it important.Through Pizzolatto’s fearless and important writing, Fukunaga’s brilliant direction, and Harrelson and McConaughey’s amazing performances, it should be no contest: True Detective is the greatest mini-series ever aired on television.
Author Bio: Tyler Harris is a film critic and analyst from Louisville, Kentucky. His passionate love for cinema and television keeps him in tune with his writing.