Second Sight [2004]

Taut, styish, and smart, Second Sight is the rare detective thriller with a brutal poetry in its premise. Detective Chief Inspector Ross Tanner (Clive Owen) is a maverick cop and workaholic who solves crimes by putting his faith in facts he can see for himself. What more cruel irony could beset him than a slow and irreversible loss of vision? While a rare disorder attacks his cornea, causing intermittent blindness and hallucinations, Tanner conceals his problem in the pursuit of a murderer who brutally beat a 19-year-old man to death. The suspects are largely people the victim knew well, including his mother (Phoebe Nicholls) and stepfather (Stuart Wilson), the nanny (Louise Atkins) of his young sister, a gardener (Eddie Marsan) who supplied him drugs, and an uncle (Stuart Wilson again, playing twins) who has allegedly been out of the country for years but in fact has been keeping a low profile in London. Tanner faces an added strain, initially, when he is partnered with a female detective, Catherine Tully (Claire Skinner), whose reliance on intuition is the antithesis of his own methods. Nevertheless, the two make a bargain after Skinner deduces Tanner's medical troubles: she'll be his eyes if he promises to give her equal credit for apprehending the killer. Utterly engrossing, Second Sight is part of that tradition of somber crime thriller done so well on British television, from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to Prime Suspect. Stars Claire Skinner (Sleepy Hollow) and Clive Owen carry the load exceptionally well. Owen (Closer, Bent), who looks like a slightly more rugged version of Kevin Costner and is instantly likable onscreen, conveys Tanner's necessary conversion to a more intuitive approach to police work with great care. Owen has looked like a candidate for international stardom for a while, and Second Sight certainly reinforces that perception. --Tom Keogh

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