If 2020 was the year of the mini-series, it was mainly due to the fact that a lot of the more high-profile films have been delayed due to Coronavirus, so fans of high-quality cinema are frequently trying to find their kicks in television. I’ve continuously said The Queen’s Gambit was the “best film” of 2020, but there have been several other excellent mini-series, like The Good Lord Bird, I Know This Much Is True and Devs to name just a few. ZeroZeroZero is another to add to that list, even it’s somewhat familiar territory with its globe-trotting drug smuggling saga, which has just a few shades of The Godfather… which if it had been made in today’s climate would have doubtlessly been a mini-series and not a feature film.
The storyline is essentially about the transatlantic cocaine trade as it follows a cocaine shipment through various hands. However, ZeroZeroZero is more interested in the human elements and its effects. This includes specifically the cartels, brokers and finally dealers who are the Italian mob. There is no “good cop” in sight, which makes its story a little more unique than your usual Narcos-like storyline. In fact, there isno sign of any moral authority in sight. The brokers are anAmerican family headed by Edward Lynwood (Gabriel Byrne) and including his daughter Emma (Andrea Risenborogh) and son Chris (Dane DeHaan). The most interesting section is probably the Mexican cartels and the training of their death squads, which is about as good of a depiction of hell as I’ve ever seen. Much in the same way as The Godfather, each story is about an older generation setting the cards in place for the younger generation to takeover.
It’s an undeniably impressive piece of work that is the Sicario sequel we all wanted, and it also has same type of nihilistic worldview that made that first film so great. The performances are great all round, with Andrea Risenborogh being the standout—she is becoming the Tilda Swinton of her generation with ease. Dane DeHaan gives one of his best performances to date, and like all his characterisation, there is a great human moment where he has urinated in the bed due to his Huntington’s Disease and is just disgusted with himself, it’s just great acting. Adriano Chiaramida plays the grandfather in the Italian mob family. I’ve never seen him in anything before, but the lengths his character has to go to are harrowing, and you can say about every character in this series.
It’s a shame this series seems to have been lost somewhat in the overwhelming amount of streaming television shows. I now have a watchlist that’s around the 100 mark. It’s brilliantly filmed and just as cinematic as the Sicario sequel, And while it’s not quite up to the level of the first film, none of the filmmakers or cinematographers are quite at the level of Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins, so that makes sense. It’s a thought-provoking and excellent saga of the transatlantic cocaine trade and its very human consequences, and its scope is helped enormously by the fact it was shot in Mexico, Italy, Senegal, Morocco and the United States—they didn’t just try to fake it all in Europe or something.
The series is presented over three discs, but there are sadly no special features. That’s a shame, because even a short making-of featurette would’ve been very welcome.