TV review: The Night Of – Sky Atlantic (4 stars)

TV review: The Night Of – Sky Atlantic

John Turturro as Jack Stone in The Night Of

Tense, brilliantly written crime drama starring Riz Ahmed and John Turturro

A few bad decisions can ruin your life. Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) decides to 'borrow' his dad's yellow cab to get to a party. It's the catalyst for a series of unfortunate events; by mistake he gives a young woman a lift, they end up back at her place …

Then Naz's world is turned upside down, as he's accused of murder and swallowed up by the US legal machine. The meat of the story isn't the crime itself but the aftermath. Sergeant Box (Bill Camp) leads the investigation but this isn't high tech CSI, just the slow grind of real-world police work. Jack Stone (John Turturro) is the scruffy world-weary lawyer who takes on the case, but is it out of charity or to serve his own agenda? Naz's family can only watch from the sidelines, tangled in reams of red tape, and hampered by their lack of money to fund such a high profile, high stakes case.

The Night Of is actually based on a British TV series, Criminal Justice, reworked for an American audience. Ahmed is the perfect lead – it's not a flashy performance but there's a realism that connects with the viewer. You immediately empathise with him, your stomach clenching as you helplessly watch the pieces fall into place as he leaves a trail of evidence. Scared and confused, he's dehumanised by every step deeper into the justice system.

Interestingly, James Gandolfini was originally cast as Stone, and it's intriguing to imagine what he would have done with the role. It's a nice touch that he still gets a producer credit as a posthumous tribute to the late great actor.

Richard Price and Steven Zaillian's writing really deserves praise, with every character having multiple layers and motivations. The Night Of revels in the small details but also asks the big questions (about guilt, the reliability of evidence, the concept of justice, racism, and Islamophobia) and, like life, the answers are complicated and messy.

The Night Of is available on Sky Boxsets from Thu 1 Sep.