The Many Movie References of True Detective

By  · Published on June 10th, 2015

The Tea and a Movie video juxtaposing shots from True Detective and a handful of movies doesn’t presuppose that all the movies are direct influences, but it tacitly accepts that some of them must have been in the subconscious of director Cary Fukunaga and DP Adam Arkapaw when they designed the look of the show.

The video itself isn’t all that great – nearly half of the shots are either stretches or so familiar to the procedural genre that the connection isn’t meaningful – but it’s interesting in the way it points out the peers on the playground that True Detective was playing in. In making comparisons, it’s often easier to go to film than it is to find television shows that it echoed.

While the video hangs its hat a bit too much on Se7en, I can understand the impulse. Not only are there a couple scenes that line up well and are complex enough to matter, the two-cops-investigating-a-sick-serial-murderer-in-a-moody-as-fuck-environment allows True Detective to emerge as a natural successor to David Fincher’s sinful thriller. You can almost imagine Kevin Spacey jumping into an alternate ending, screaming, “Detectiiiiiiiiiives!” at Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson before raising his bloodied hands in the air.

The most surprising omission from the video is the extended tracking shot from episode four matched up with the extended tracking shot from Children of Men.

It’s not that Cuaron and Lubezki invented long takes. The gun violence, delicate escape choreography and the crisp intricacy of both binds them together fairly well. Plus, you have to assume that when setting up a tracking shot like theirs, both Fukunaga and Arkapaw had to have known about (if not outright worshiped) the sequence from Children of Men.

Overall, I admire what Tea and a Movie has attempted here because it feels so natural to investigate the cinematic qualities of True Detective. Finding similarities between the show and filmmakers like Tarkovsky and Nichols deserves a pat on the back, regardless of whether these are overt homages or coincidental. The next season of True Detective – without Fukunaga – lands June 21st, and the baseline to its success (or failure) will be whether it’s able to continue pushing the visual boundaries of what we’re used to seeing on TV. After the first season, and after the Hardhome sequence from Game of Thrones, True Detective has its cinematic work cut out for it.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.