This adaptation runs almost ninety minutes (almost) and the source novel is, according to Amazon, 400 pages. So I’m guessing the novel doesn’t read like a disjointed, James Ellroy goes to England, but what do I know, I’ve only seen the movie. But it’d be hard at 400 pages… even with a big font.
There’s a lot good about 1980–Paddy Considine is outstanding in the lead, essentially playing the UK version of the last honest cop (also, not Irish–but still Roman Catholic). The film fails him. But there are very few actors who 1980 doesn’t end up failing. Of the (extended) principals, David Morrissey weathers it best–he all of a sudden grows a character halfway through the film, instead of getting left behind as the revelations ramp up.
The best performances, besides Considine, are supporting, Peter Mullan and Julia Ford. Mullan’s got an extended cameo, Ford’s got one and a half scenes, but both of them make 1980 feel real, instead of like an over-cooked melodrama.
Some of the problem might be Marsh doesn’t make Yorkshire seem like a real place. It feels like there’s a bar, a police station and a handful of other nondescript locations. The script’s not inventive enough to make something of those elements (and Marsh opening with historical news clips doesn’t get him a pass either).
Until the third act, 1980‘s ok, because it’s nothing but Considine’s story.
Once it gets, forcibly, incorporated into the Red Riding whole, it plummets.