It is a long way from the uneven streets of 1896 New York City to the well-heeled slopes of Park City, but TNT’s The Alienist will feel right at home at this year’s Sundance Film Festival among the top-notch films premiering over the next week. With a preview screening set for January 19 at the festival ahead of its January 22 premiere, the limited series starring Dakota Fanning, Daniel Brühl and Luke Evans based on Caleb Carr’s 1994 bestseller is a great yarn that has been deftly translated into a fine drama.
Having taken decades to come to any screen (small or big), the 10-episode effort executive produced by Cary Fukunaga and Eric Roth was well worth the wait, as I say in my video review above. Much of that satisfaction has to be due to the efforts of director/executive producer Jakob Verbruggen and screenwriter Hossein Amini, who have thoroughly captured the psychological and cultural shifts detailed in Carr’s immersive novel.
However, as a changing New York City and America teeters on a new century, the spotlight here has to be the trio of leads, especially Fanning. Inglourious Basterds alum Brühl and Hobbit vet Evans are very good, but it is her Sara Howard is the axis around whom The Alienist rotates. As a secretary of then-police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt seeking to become the first female detective among New York’s finest, Fanning never hesitates in that capacity.
Joined by Brühl’s acerbic psychologist and Evans’ newspaperman, Fanning’s Sara delves as assertively into solving the grisly murders of a several boy prostitutes in the emerging metropolis as she does fighting the conventions of the time – many of which are still with us. In that sense, The Alienist is a timely thriller whose greatest limitation is that “limited series” label tagged to it. From what I’ve seen, more of the Paramount TV and Studio T produced The Alienist — which has a sequel in 1997’s The Angel of Darkness — would be a good thing.
Click on my video review above for more of my opinion about TNT’s big original programming play. Have you read The Alienist novel? Will you be watching the series? You should — whether you are at Sundance or not.
This review was originally posted on January 17