Synopsis: Based on Philip K. Dicks award-winning novel, and executive produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), ‘The Man In The High Castle’ explores what it would be like if the Allied Powers had lost the second world war, and Japan and Germany ruled over the United States.
Review: The first Amazon Pilot season of 2015 has started and we already have a stand out show in ‘The Man In The High Castle’, which has to be amongst the most ambitious of the new shows that Amazon has to offer.
Based the novel by Philip K. Dick the series paints a vivid picture of what America would be like if the East and West coasts of the country was split between Germany and Japan.
The result is quite unsettling on the written page, but slightly more so when you see it played out on your television screen.
In this pilot you get thrown straight into the action with out any unnecessary expositional dialogue or narration. The action kicks off in New York and it is 1962 and Nazi Germany now rules the East Coast of the U.S., with Japan claiming the West Coast and Alaska. Americans have now been living for 20 years under a severe dictatorship, complete with all the nightmarish ethnic cleansing one might imagine – which also includes the mentally ill and infirm. In the episode we learn that the disabled and mentally ill are murdered and cremated in hospitals because they are a drain on society.
We also learn that Hitler who is still alive in this universe has Parkinson’s disease and only has a matter of six months left to live, which is something of a concern given that his death could spark another war due to simmering hostilities between Germany and Japan. The concern being that if either Goebbels or Himmler ascend to power. It would likely lead to more nuclear bombs being dropped over key strategic US States.
It’s a fascinating world, which has loads of potential for a television drama.
The story starts with a young man who is tasked with driving a mysterious cargo from New York to Cannon City, which is known as the neutral zone because neither the Nazi’s or Japanese have control there.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, which is ruled by Japan we are introduced to Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) who is an average woman who seems to be trying to to get the best out of life within an oppressive regime. Her mother does not approve of her embracing elements of Eastern culture such as Chinese Medicine and her study of aikido.
Juliana winds up being thrown into action when she witnesses her sister get shot by Japanese authorities for treason, but a little prior to that we see her sister hand Juliana a package, which contains a film. On the film is a series of movie reels, which show the Allies winning the war. We learn that the films are made by ‘The Man In The High Castle’ and owning them is a treasonous offense to both Japanese authorities and the third reich.
Meanwhile Joe Blake the young man who is driving across the USA to Canon City is avoiding capture quite successfully, but as he gets nearer to the city he becomes curious about the cargo he is carrying.
This is a series that has brilliant potential and I really hope that Amazon get the feedback and numbers required for this to go to full series.
It has some brilliant casting and Rufus Sewell is deliciously menacing as the Nazi John Smith who has no qualms about ordering his footmen to beat a man to death irrespective of whether he is conscious or not.
There’s a hell of a lot of scope for storytelling in this world and the screenplay, which is written by Frank Spotniz ticks all the right boxes.
Of course ‘Man In The High Castle’ is not the only production that has asked what it be like if the Allies lost the war, but it is one of small group of productions that has been produced for television. Some other examples of this sub genre include the 1994 mini series ‘Fatherland’, which showed us what Europe would have been like had the Germans taken control. We also catch a glimpse of a German occupied America in ‘Philadelphia Experiment II’, which was the poorly received sequel to the 1983 film ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’.
- Fantastic world building
- Lack of exposition may put some viewers off
- Production Values10