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Compellingly presented TV drama based on the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper. While fictionalised - and thus prone to exaggerating or omitting detail as necessary to the story - it paints a wholly believable picture of the police investigation.

The setting of the grim Northern cities of the 1970s is skilfully evoked - as is the mindset of the equally grim men who hunted the Ripper. The toll it took on their personal lives is visited with touching detail, delivered by a roll-call of some of Britain's finest TV actors.

Alun Armstrong plays George Oldfield - the head of the investigation for most of its duration. He convincingly brings to life the contradictions, uncertainties and private toll that the hunt took on him. The public face of hard, unremitting hunter masked a man who truly took the hunt personally and almost drove himself to death, working around the clock to identify the killer.

Of course, he was fatally derailed in his hunt by the hoaxer who sent him, personally, tapes and letters claiming to be the killer. In a way, Oldfield's story is a tragedy and only an actor as capable as Armstrong could bring it to life.

Naturally, the film is light on laughs, but as an evocation of a time and a place, it is among the first rank of dramatisations. By focussing on the police investigation, it also skirts the sensationalism and fascination with the details of the crimes themselves that bedevils documentary-makers.

4.0 / 5 stars


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