Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sons Of Liberty Night 1 - off to an explosive start

History's "Sons of Liberty" premiered tonight and started off running. Literally! The first few minutes were jam packed with action as Sam Adams is chased through the streets of Boston by the British. He's evading capture - there's a warrant out for his arrest for being a tax collector unwilling to collect taxes. There are riots happening in the streets at the same time, punches are thrown... and then it's off to the governor's mansion to do some real damage. Which all in turn gets the soldiers off Adams' back - for the night.

Make no mistake - this miniseries is NOT HISTORICALLY ACCURATE by any stretch of the imagination. History's big wigs came out with that warning several weeks ago. They do not count this among their documentaries, but as a way to show the excitement of the period and hopefully interest viewers in to reading up on what really happened and who these men truly were.

Still, if you aren't looking for a straight up history lesson, you will not be disappointed! I typically cannot get over blatant historical fallacies, but the way this story is told it's not a bother in the slightest. The cast is spot on in their roles. The action is fast paced and intriguing (edge of your seat) and the dialogue - while not accurate for the 1760s - keeps your interest. Each member brings another flavor to the show, and it melds into a very yummy and rich story.

Ben Barnes plays the most important role of Sam Adams, a disheartened tax collector. Adams refuses to force the kings taxes on his friends and fellow Bostonians, allowing them to pay only what they can so they can provide for their family members. This does not sit well with the governor, and he sends his goons after him. This just bolsters Adams and his followers to press against the crown even harder.

Barnes was definitely hired not just for his acting - which is spot on - but also to be the heartthrob. He's one of the better looking drunks, that's for sure. Sam Adams never looked so good, that's for sure. Barnes brings the right amount of rebel to the role, while being very much your classic Robin Hood. While most are pushing Sons of Liberty as a Colonial Ocean's 11, it definitely also is a Colonial Hood and Merry Men.

Adams is likeable, if a little bit annoying. We get to see why the others have joined the fight - but we really haven't seen what sent Adams to the edge. It most likely stems from watching his father go bankrupt and die from the stress, but that's only mentioned briefly and just doesn't seem like much of a catalyst.

Adams' closest friend, at least in the beginning, is Dr. Joseph Warren played by Ryan Eggold (The Blacklist). Warren is one of the more respected physicians in Boston, and is the moral compass of Sam Adams. He also sticks up for his friend, and helps him out of every jam with the British soldiers (warning Adams before hand that they're coming, and lying to them when they get there).

It's good to see Eggold in a role other than the one I know him as on The Blacklist, though I have to admit I'm waiting for him to turn into Mr. Hyde after his Dr. Jeckel routine tonight. It was nice to see a more tender, emotional role for Eggold, and he didn't disappoint. In one of the more dramatic scenes where a young boy is killed after Warren warns Adams that innocents would be hurt, Warren gives Adams a knowing look. An "I told you so" which then sets Adams on edge.

Warren did join up with the Sons of Liberty in the history books, and will eventually embrace the idea in this series. Especially once a certain Mrs. Margaret Gage comes into the picture. It'll be very interesting to see how his character goes from friend helping a friend to a patriot who would die for his country (not looking forward to THAT part of the story).

Quite possibly the most entertaining character in the series is Rafe Spall's John Hancock. I'm not sure what he's trying to portray in his character, but he's rather... flamboyant. He kinda comes off as a colonial Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) with the way his social norms as an upper class businessman and property owner get in the way of bonding with his compatriots. Hancock is thrust into the rebellion after the Governor goes back on his word to allow Hancock special liberties. The final straw is the Governer suggesting Hancock is no better than the rioters. He's not a British citizen - he's a Colonist. He's second class.

Hancock immediately seeks Adams out to tell him of a plan to boycott the Brits, and still make money. Adams, being against rich society, agrees only because it will fund his larger cause. The men create a smuggling ring and underground market for normal goods that the every man needed, but were being taxed out of affording (you know, things like food).

I was not prepared to like Spall as much as I do. I'm not familiar with his work, but I'm very interested in searching out his other roles. He's definitely a stand out in the series.

One role that, so far, sticks close enough to how history portrays him is John Adams played by Henry Thomas. The cousin of Sam Adams, John is more of a controlling older brother who has had it with his cousin than he is a friend and ally. While John Adams gets most of the credit for being a thorn in everyone's side during the rise of American revolution, Sam Adams did much of the groundwork. John followed the law to the letter, Sam was more free to pick and choose.

Henry Thomas - who most know as the child actor who played Elliot in Steven Spielberg's E.T. - was quite convincing. Next to the more animated Ben Barnes, it gave the elder Adams the maturity and coldness that was needed as he continually lectured his cousin on the finer points of right and wrong. The two clash and at one point John tells his wife to deny Sam access to their home (he charms her anyway so she relents).

The first night ended with the Boston Massacre, so the two will clash in the second episode as John Adams will be hired to defend the British officers who fired on the Colonials.

I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Paul Revere (Michael Raymond-James). Though just in a few scenes, he's the original reason I was excited for the mini series. We meet Revere as a businessman willing to rent out some space to Adams and his crew as they built "lobster pots". It's obvious in the scene that they've not let Revere in on the secret, but he's not an idiot. He knows they're up to something, and he supports their overall cause telling Adams that they next time they go to trash the governor's house to let him know.

Raymond-James gives his normal swagger to the role (hello typecasting), as well as a strong Bostonian accent. Remember, this is a fictitious take on the history of the 1760s-70s. Revere is a selfmade man and is rough around the edges. He's a little less refined than the rest, so his more "Bostonian sound" seems appropriate.

Revere is seen in many of the scenes in the background backing up Sam Adams. He stops Adams from getting too close as the riot begins setting in motion the Boston Massacre, but runs off as the shooting starts. He turns back to watch in horror as Adams beats down one of the British soldiers who is wounded when the rioters return fire. No doubt as the series continues Revere's role will grow - to peak with his "Midnight Ride" (which was really early morning). The preview of what's to come again shows Raymond-James giving off his typical smart ass persona when questioned by British troops. He'll also get in on the fighting, which I'm looking forward to.

More Mikey Ray is always a good thing.

Overall, this series got off to a very exciting start and I'm loving it. That they're playing with accents (Colonials all have American accents, the King's Men all have British accents) and with history doesn't bother me half as much as I worried it would. If you're looking at it strictly as an action adventure movie and not as a history lesson you shouldn't be disappointed. There were quite a few surprises as the characters were introduced (seriously was not expecting to love John Hancock... and I had NO idea that Paul was going to have a Boston accent ha ha) but I have to say I'm impressed. And what's even more impressive is it's not Ryan or Michael that I'm most impressed with (granted they had small roles tonight). Ben Barnes is just wonderful, and Rafe Spall... yeah... I gotta find more of their work.

So now the countdown begins to night two. It promises to be even MORE exciting, if that's possible.

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