If I’m going to call myself a critic then I need to be able to admit when I might have been overly critical. In my initial review of ITV’s true-life Manhunt, I moaned about the sluggish pacing, even going as far to say that DCI Collin Sutton, the man who the whole story revolves around was a bit too ordinary for TV drama.
Luckily for me, ITV’s schedulers made the right decision to play the three-parter over three consecutive nights which meant I felt more inclined to carry on and see how the story played out. It’s important you know I was a fan of the first episode but its pace and desire to portray the ordinary and mundane in life came as more of a shock to me than it should.
I found myself immediately more drawn into the second instalment as Sutton and his team slowly put lead suspect Levi Bellfield under covert surveillance. I was able to see what I couldn’t before: this is deliberately portraying the meticulous nature of police work and it’s a drama that doesn’t sensationalise the awful things that Bellfield put his young victims through. By the end of the second episode, as Sutton’s team sat watching Bellfield trying to lure two young girls into his van, I started to see Sutton as a hero. My respect for him, like those of within his team, came with his determination to secure a conviction and get justice for those girls.
Writer Ed Whitmore poked fun at Sutton’s meticulousness with him storming out of a room to take a phone call and only really caring about himself when his wife informs him she’s been demoted from the Milly Dowler case. Marin Clunes was perfect as Sutton making sure he never came across as abrupt or standoffish. Perhaps because of its more sedate pacing, the introduction to Bellfield in the final episode felt even more haunting and disturbing.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure why I couldn’t see from the off what so many others clearly saw. It’s not as if I’m one for high octane drama. I’ll always plump for the story with the human at the centre rather than a grisly crime.
Above all, Manhunt was respectful to all involved. It didn’t paint Sutton as a superhero, but more as a man whose dedication to his work served as inspiration for his team and the joint efforts of them all led to Bellfield’s conviction. This kind of drama that celebrates the ordinary should be celebrated and I feel somewhat guilty that I couldn’t see that initially. It’s a drama I’ll remember for a long time and I’m happy to admit that when the next time a high octane police drama comes along I’ll probably be wishing it was more like this.