Peaky blinders is an epic gangster series set between the interim of the two world wars that traces the rise of the Shelby family in Birmingham, England. The series stars Cillian Murphy, Helen Mccrory, Paul Anderson and others.
Stolen army weapons, gangsters, the Irish Republican Army, Fallen Russian Aristocrats, Communist insurgencies and Italian gangsters are some of the things that the Shelby family comes in contact with throughout their journey. At the head of the family is Thomas Shelby or Tommy as he is known to his family and friends. A WWI veteran who comes back home shell-shocked by the war and as a result develops an utter disregard for any form of institution be it a state or religion. Along on the ride are Arthur Shelby, Tommy’s older brother and John Shelby, the youngest of the three. Other family members include Ada, their rebellious sister and Aunt Polly, the only person that can go toe to toe with Tommy.
Peaky blinders is a beautiful show. It is distinct in its aesthetics. A richly detailed show that immerses you completely into the cacophony of the early 20th century. It portrays a decadent world on the verge of metamorphosis and the men and women who see the dawning of the new world order.
The performances are all poignant and affecting. The supporting characters are all well drawn and acted, especially a scene stealing performance by Tom Hardy as the unstable and double-crossing gangster Alfie Solomons and Paddy Considine as a priest whose concerns are too earthly for a man of his position. However, the main attraction of Peaky Blinders is Thomas Shelby who is played brilliantly by actor Cillian Murphy. He is a pragmatist and an opportunist. A man hell bent on attaining absolute power. His experiences in the war had shattered his worldview and had left him disillusioned. He is cold and calculating always playing the long game. He is utterly ruthless, but beneath the veneer of a hard exterior lies a shattered man broken by a war fought on an unimaginable scale. He is a man continually on the run and any time he takes a breath he breaks down so he stays on the move to avoid looking at the wreckage of his life. His ambitions seems to know no bounds, from a small time bookmaker dreaming of being a gangster to a business man trying to grasp at the British empire, he represents an extreme example of what an ambitious man can achieve.
However, Peaky Blinders is not just about Thomas Shelby. It is about the entire family; we see Arthur the eldest brother who suffers like Tommy because of the war but unlike Tommy, his fix is drugs, alcohol, and later religion but none of these things are able to hold his violent nature back. Sooner or later the anger always surfaces back. There is also their aunt Polly who has the unfortunate job of curbing Tommy’s destructive tendencies while dealing with her own demons and Ada, the sister, who grows from an idealistic girl committed to communism to a pragmatist woman weary of the world. Ultimately peaky blinders is a closeted study of violent lives told in a grand Shakespearean tale.
Grade – A