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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

The Gold

The Brink’s-Mat robbery legend only grows in a diverting retelling "The Gold" (BBC One), a six-part series from Neil Forsyth, creator and writer of Scottish crime series Guilt.

It began in 1983 – as depicted in the opening scene – when six men in balaclavas burst into Brink’s-Mat secure storage facility near Heathrow airport. They intended to steal £1m in cash, but instead came away with about £26m of gold bullion (equivalent to £90m today). At the time, it was the largest score in British history.

From there, this cops-and-robbers tale branches out in multiple directions, as the self-identifying “villains” split up, go to ground and begin the complex task of laundering their haul.

The police are in lukewarm pursuit throughout, under the command of DCI Brian Boyce (Hugh Bonneville), although, in fairness to the Scotland Yard’s finest, this is uncharted territory for all involved. One of the show’s more compelling themes is that money knows no master. Us mortals, even the financially literate and loaded ones, are only ever along for the ride.

And in The Gold, it’s an ever-enjoyable ride. This world of smoke-filled pubs and Freemason handshakes has been more credibly conjured in several British gangster films (the Bob Hoskins-starring 1980 classic, The Long Good Friday, springs to mind), but there are still pleasures aplenty to be found in the production design – the cars! The collars! The carpet swirls! – and an almost overstuffed ensemble cast.

Jack Lowden, recently seen on the other side of the law in Slow Horses, nails the steely insouciance of career criminal Kenneth Noye (brave, since Noye is now out of prison and known to hold a grudge) and Dorothy Atkinson as cash mule Jeanie gives a delightful spin on the curtain-twitching suburban snob she perfected in the sitcom Mum.

Charlotte Spencer is fascinating to watch as the squad’s lone female detective Jennings – though she feels a little underserved by a script that only fleetingly references 80s workplace sexism.

The real story of Brink’s-Mat and its 30-year aftermath is so bloody and bullet-ridden it purportedly has its own curse, with at least six associated deaths to date. Yet in this show, even the pivotal 1985 killing of DC John Fordham happens entirely off-screen.

Still, it would be unfair to fault a consistently entertaining TV drama for falling short of the gritty and gobsmacking truth. The Gold is also partially redeemed by a finale that manages to cleverly wrap up loose narrative ends, while acknowledging that the full story is yet to be told – and likely never can be. Because, as Lowden’s Noye cooly observes: “You only hear about the people who get caught.”

Indeed, the triumph of Forsyth and director Aniel Karia (who directed and won an Oscar for The Long Goodbye with Riz Ahmed) is that they evade the cringey, sub-Tarantino Guy Ritchie-isms that infect so much British crime drama, instead achieving a smarter, more classic feel.

As the series goes on it promises also to unveil the way that dirty money fueled the London Docklands property boom, and the birth of global money-laundering.

Filled with twists and turns, and a cast who veer between likeable and villainous, The Gold accepts that the theft was the easy part. Telling the story of what happened next – and making it every bit as exhilarating as a full-blown safecracking caper – is the show’s true alchemy.

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