“The Kettering Incident” (2016)
Produced by: Vincent Sheehan and Andrew Walker
Directed by: Rowan Woods and Tony Krawitz
Featuring: Elizabeth Debicki, Matthew Le Nevez, Henry Nixon, Anthony Phelan, Damon Gameau, Damien Garvey, Sacha Horler, Brad Kannegiesser, Sianoa Smit-McPhee
The last few years has seen an upsurge in not only Australian television but also the sheer volume of Australian actors heading to the US and appearing in not only independent movies but blockbusters as well. Enter the 2016 production of the Tasmanian based show “The Kettering Incident” (2016), featuring Elizabeth Debicki, fresh of star turns in a bunch of movies, including “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017), “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (2015), “Everest” (2015) as well as the upcoming “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (2017) – Debicki certainly is having a pretty good run. “The Kettering Incident” is a true original show, one that could only take place in Tasmania, an island that is almost isolated, best known for a Yahoo Serious film, David Boon and Ricky Ponting – as well as being the site of one the worst mass shootings in Australia’s history. It’s a wonder it’s taken so long to set a show like this there. The sheer low of the place can have a sense of forboding.
The series (at least this first season) is based around Dr. Anna Macy (Elizabeth Debicki) who left Kettering when she was just fourteen, shortly after her best friend (and half-sister), Gillian Baxter, mysteriously disappeared. The two girls had been cycling through the forbidden forests outside Kettering when they saw strange lights in the sky. Eight hours later, Anna was found alone, terrified and covered in blood.
Fifteen years later, Anna returns to find the town struggling to survive. The forests have been marked for logging and the town is on edge following violent clashes between environmentalists and the local loggers. Anna’s reappearance causes a stir when another girl, Chloe Holloway (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) suddenly disappears, prompting Anna to discover what really happened the night Gillian disappeared, and in doing so, uncovering secrets that threaten the future of Kettering.
One of the main characters in this miniseries is the landscape of Tasmania itself, I lead with that because after just a few episodes of the craggy coastlines, the cold deep blue water, the sometimes inhospitable looking living conditions, a forest that seems to hide a deeper mystery as well as wildlife that seems to come from another world. It was a stroke of genius to locate the plot of this slow burning show on an isolated as well as isolating piece of Australia. There may have been some inspiration from reality for the plot, but it is still an inspired choice of the production to actually film on location with all the pitfalls this can incur – this is not a forgiving environment.
The atmosphere that has been generated by both director and cinematographer gives a true sense of dread throughout the eight episodes, not only with the general outlook of the show but also the difference in the London locations moving through to the Tasmanian area. Within Tasmania we have several locations that are all very different, the forest area, the suburban sprawl that has taken root, the ocean with all that encompasses as well the interesting outlooks from the roads that the characters travel.
The characters are all very interesting as well as being extremely complex, with the cast being led by Elizabeth Debicki as Anna Macy, a struggling drug addicted medical professional who has been running her entire life. She has blackouts, which is not a spoiler as it is literally in the first few scenes. The device is incredible and reminded me of David Flincher’s “Fight Club” (1999) which had a similar device but it is more jarringly used here. The rest of the cast is made up of Australian characters actors that have been seen on countless dramas, some have even made the shift to the US for more lucrative offers, however they all make their mark here in what is a quintessential thriller with surprises and revelations in every excellent episode.
This is a thriller with a very slow burning plot that delivers revelations as well as plot points each episode as you would expect from the post modern thrillers that have become the norm, as the effect of the Scandi-noirs as well as English dramas have dictaatted to modern story-telling. This is a refreshing take with conspiracy around every corner.
This miniseries comes alive at home so a purchase on DVD or Blu-ray would be a good choice as well as a welcome addition to any home library.
“The Kettering Incident” is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.