Our country offers great inspiration for TV in the way of action sequences and twisted crime sagas. Phumlani S Langa marvels at Deon Meyer’s suspense-filled book that has been adapted into an action-packed miniseries.
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Thriller novelist Deon Meyer’s critically acclaimed book Trackers has been developed into a five-part miniseries loaded with dark action and chilling thrills – and I couldn’t be happier. The series starts rather slowly and follows the lives of individuals who work for the Presidential Bureau of Intelligence (PBI). Take Milla Strachan (Rolanda Marais) for example – she finds the courage to leave her abusive husband and gets a job at the PBI as a researcher for investigations in the local equivalent of the US’s CIA. Another one of the more interesting characters is Lemmer, played by James Gracie, a washed-up special forces bodyguard in the Karoo whose speciality is riding shotgun and accompanying people on missions that might need a steely gun-slinging maverick.
He does just this when an acquaintance asks him to accompany a vet transporting two rhinos from Zimbabwe’s Beitbridge border to Loxton in the Karoo. On their way, they are shadowed by a black Hummer that waits until nightfall to hold up the truck. In that bush showdown, we get our first glimpse of Nkunzi, played by Sisanda Henna, the leader of a gang, who isn’t as interested in rhino horns as you’ve been led to believe.
The show ventures into a plot with Muslim extremists looking to trade diamonds for a weapon strong enough to target a full Cape Town Stadium.
The show shimmers with an expensive sheen. It’s a reflection of our society that was as clear to see in 2011 as it is now. It does not focus only on poaching or terrorism, but on the rage of the oppressed bursting at the seams of the soul, driving a person to take extreme action.
The alleged terror cell is based in the brightly painted Bo Kaap, which is visually pleasing and exciting considering that seeing this neighbourhood on local TV is not common. The show moves around the country, bouncing in and out of topical issues that run rife in our republic.
Beyond resulting in an eloquent display of our local languages, the clever adaptation of the book steers us around the seedy world of poaching and then yanks us out and thrusts us into the inner workings of a jihad and the complexities that surround religion.
One complaint, though, is that the producers of the show should have been more careful with some of the props, as a few of the guns were obviously plastic.
On the other hand, from Thapelo Mokoena to Jerry Mofokeng, the cast members play their parts exceptionally well. This show ranks alongside bangers Ifalakhe or The Republic and should all have the regulars sweating come awards season.
However, I must admit that I did not like the ending much – it didn’t feel as explosive as it did on the pages of the book.