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REVIEW: Secret City

ReviewSteve Molk

A young man found dead on the edge of Lake Burley-Griffin, his stomach ripped open. A young Australian girl, on a scholarship in China, publicly self-immolates. Press Gallery journalist Harriet Dunkley (Anna Torv) is about to expose these seemingly disconnected stories as a part of a larger interlocked conspiracy that could threaten the safety of every Australian. Welcome to SECRET CITY.

Based on the novels The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code written by Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann Secret City is a tale dripping with spies, international political relations, and pulls back the curtains House of Cards-style on Australian politics and power.

Joining Torv is a broad sampling of the best Australian acting has to offer: Jackie Weaver (Senator Catriona Bailey), Damon Herriman (ASD Senior Analyst Kim Gordon), Dan Wyllie (Minister of Defence Mal Paxton), Miranda Tapsell (Journalist Sasha Rose), Alex Dimitriades (ASD Officer Charles Dancer), Alan Dale (Prime Minister Martin Toohey), Sacha Horler (PM's Chief of Staff Ludie Sypek), Marcus Graham, Benedict Samuel, Brenna Harding, Huw Hugginson, Justin Smith and more.

Weaver, Horler, Herriman and Dimitriades are all stand-outs in an A-team cast.

Dunkley's determination to learn the truth is at times overwrought and some of the insider nods to journalists break the tension inappropriately, though these are nit-picky criticisms in the midst of an enveloping story. Weaver is always commanding (couldn't she have been PM?) and offers up a career politician who knows where all the bodies are buried with a stare and a terse word. Wyllie, also always good, appears to straighten as his character gets more skin in the game - perhaps a slight flaw in the development of Paxton's role within the broader story however he is a delight in full flight.

While the comparisons to the Netflix drama are obvious it lacks of the tenor of a Spacey or a Wright and the deeper, more sinister plot. The cast is very strong and the tale well told. The deliciously spooky opening titles show a Canberra that has never looked more intriguing.

SECRET CITY is an immersive story of politics, drama and secrets, with an incredible cast to support it. You'll never look at "plain old Canberra" the same way again.

Secret City (6 episodes) - starts Sun 05/06 8:30pm (double ep) on showcase.