Under the Banner of Heaven review – Andrew Garfield shows off his spidey skills in this gritty crime drama | Television

OWe have to talk about beards. In Under the Banner of Heaven (Disney+), witnesses report that four suspicious men leaving the scene of a double murder are all bearded. If this was Portland or Shoreditch, where beards are not just lavish but artisanal, that would make all men suspicious, but this is Mormon-dense Utah, where looking for bearded men is less like looking needles in haystacks than looking for needles in haystacks. ZZ Top at an Osmonds concert.

Andrew Garfield as Detective Jeb Pyre is an ideal Mormon. He is clean-shaven, soberly dressed, avoids coffee and when his partner, freshly arrived from Sodom and Gomorrah that is Las Vegas, offers him curly fries, he nibbles them furtively under the desk. When the latter swears, Pyre gently takes him back. He’s soft-spoken and soft-skinned, probably hydrating more rigorously than Mormon orthodoxy recommends.

The duo form a duo as unlikely as Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours. Pyre is supernatural, but knows exactly what makes a Mormon tick, while Detective Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham, Native American father of Jacqueline Vorhees in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) is a Paiute, so a non-white non-Mormon, doubly skeptical about to holiness. of the innocence of the suspects.

We first see Pyre playing with his daughter, lassoing her with the lawn mower cable – good to see Garfield’s spider skills are still intact. But this sunny idyll is broken by a phone call: a woman, Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones), and her 15-month-old baby have been found with their throats cut. We are suddenly thrust into the dark world of criminal procedure, where under no circumstances should a detective turn on the lights at a crime scene for fear of killing the mood (which makes the clearing rate all the more surprising murders on TV is higher than in real life). Like the first episode of Twin Peaks, this murder will devastate a small town where murders almost never happen, especially when it becomes clear that it is not corrupt outsiders but Latter Day Saints (LDS) who are responsible.

What about beards, though? Are the killers wearing fake ones to confuse the hated cops, or are they a splinter group of fundamentalist Mormons who want to return to your old bearded days of yesteryear? I can’t wait to find out at the end of this six-part series.

When Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven was published in 2003, he juxtaposed this true crime with the early history of the Mormon church in the United States, from the time in 1823 when an angel led Joseph Smith to a buried set of gold plates, which he translated into English – a text he never imagined would be adapted into a hit musical, namely the Book of Mormon.

This dramatization reinforces the historical sense of persecution of Mormons, from when they were a religious minority driven from Ohio and Missouri until 1984, when the Lafferty family, bankrupt businesses and tax bills in rise, have taken over from century-old Mormon teachings. on the rejection of tax policies and polygamy of an allegedly excessive State.

The book is adapted through flashbacks, both to the struggles of the early Mormons as they embark on the creation of Zion, as well as the events leading up to the murders. We see Brenda as an intruder in the Lafferty family, an out-of-state Mormon who aspires not to provide endless babies for her new husband, but to become a television newsreader – an ambition that , for the Lafferty men, is an affront to the patriarchy. Mormon standards.

The role gives Edgar-Jones the chance to be livelier than as Sally Rooney’s dreary, ardent lover of Normal People and less vexing than her turn as what Peter Bradshaw calls “Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murder.” Suspect” in her review of the new adaptation of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. She should, and does, suggest something more nuanced – a woman arrogant enough to refuse to bend the knee to polygamous patriarchy. That said, I could have done without the script repeatedly informing us that Brenda is pretty. Show, don’t tell, people.

It’s a stylish and even topical adaptation that dares to ask big questions. What in this fallen world can cause a believer to doubt his faith? Should the pious render to Caesar? Or should they hole up in a log cabin to fight against his evil forces?

No wonder some Mormons have criticized this adaptation: it shows their church as including murderous rebels using a perversion of Mormon theology to justify their crimes. But we don’t need to see it that way. He is also emblematic of a certain kind of Americans, emboldened by Trump, who see the state as the enemy and the resistance against it as noble.

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