Witnesses reviews: France's answer to The Bridge?
Channel 4 drama's 'particularly morbid plot' makes it even creepier than its Scandi-noir forebears
French filmmakers have won high praise from critics for the new Channel 4 Euro-crime drama Witnesses. The six-part thriller is already drawing comparisons to The Bridge and The Killing, with some critics suggesting it is even classier and creepier.
In the first episode, which aired last Wednesday, three corpses are dug up from their graves and posed around a developer's show home. Viewers meet young detective Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), who suspects that retired police officer Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte) might know more than he is letting on.
"It is about as arresting and original a start to a whodunnit as I have seen, rivalling the double topless/bottomless corpses at the start of the The Bridge," says Andrew Billen at The Times.
"Doubtless improbability will pile upon improbability, but Witnesses reminds us how well continental television manages to do these things."
The Daily Telegraph's Catherine Gee agrees that we are "firmly in the territory of The Killing and The Bridge". However, she says the show's "particularly morbid plot makes it arguably even creepier than anything else to come out of Scandinavia".
Witnesses has plenty going for it to stand on its own two feet, says Brian Donaldson at The List. Its "lean" six episodes will help fend off the kind of criticisms that The Killing had to endure for being "overly-woolly" in parts across its 20-episode opening season, says Donaldson.
"It's a well-worn cliche that those cool French folk do things with a little more sophistication than the rest of us. Episode one of Witnesses is doing literally nothing to destroy that stereotype: even their freshly dug-up corpses look painfully stylish," he adds.
Christopher Stevens at the Daily Mail also praises the show for being "beautiful to watch", with the camera making "superb use of its scenery" in the seaside town of Le Treport, Normandy, particularly its cliff-face funicular railway. There is also an "otherworldly hint of fairy tales", says Stevens, with a mysterious girl in a red hood and talk of wolves.
"Don't tell the French, because it will only make them even more big-headed, but their TV writers are streets ahead of the Brits with police dramas," he says.
And this "classy, creepy" thriller should be judged on its own merits, rather than compared to its Scandi-noir forebears, says Sally Newall at The Independent. She is not sure the show – with an "unashamedly grisly" crime at its centre – will have people flocking to France's north-west coast, but says she will "go back for more of its superior telly".
- Witnesses is on Channel 4 on Wednesdays at 10pm