The Hidden Angle | 'ZeroZeroZero' is well written, but the brilliant narrative style has to be the highlight
'ZeroZeroZero' is Amazon's latest original which was made in collaboration with Canal and Sky.
The show flits between Mexico, USA, and Italy, and gives us a front-row seat to watch how a drug trafficking operation across border works. A Mexican cartel headed by two brothers -- the Leyras -- is in the business of exporting cocaine by the tonne. They use an American shipping company to transport their shipments to different parts of the world. The shipping company is led by Edward Lynwood and he is assisted by his daughter Emma. His son Chris is not involved in the family business because of a hereditary disease that he has got from his mother. Then we have the clients -- the head of the Italian mob, Don Minu. Usually, the transactions between these three parties are flawless, and so far, they have earned millions of dollars through this business.
However, the show is outstanding for having portrayed what could go wrong with an operation such as this. Considering the number of players involved in each team, the possibility of the storyline getting messy is high as things can go downhill very fast. Instead, 'ZeroZeroZero' has complex subplots that have been fleshed out in-depth that adds to the experience of watching the show, but what is really impressive is the way these subplots progress within the show.
There is an internal strife in the Italian mob as we see Don Minu's grandson Stefano try to exact revenge from his grandfather because he killed Stefano's father. Stefano wants to unseat his grandfather from the seat of power so that he can take over, and in an attempt to succeed, he also involves an Italian family other than his own. In Mexico, the Leyras are being closely watched by police and special forces. The Lynwoods' problem here is the fact that they are requested by Don Minu to front the payment for the shipment. The $32 million is what the Lynnwoods had to prepare. Of course, the risks in drug trafficking are huge, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.
Now, with so many lead characters in place with their own conflicts to address, the narrative could have easily gotten messy but the show uses an interesting narrative technique to keep the plot progression clean and the cinematography combined with sharp editing, influences the show in a big way. While multiple-perspective narrative travels in a linear direction and in parallel with each character, the one that is used in the show is quite a bit different.
In the show, we see each episode feature a focal moment. It unfolds from one perspective and then this pivotal scene begins to freeze in slow motion. And as the camera pans for a close-up shot of one of the key players in the scene, the events leading to this focus scene are presented through this character's perspective. The effect is similar to watching an object from a 360-degree perspective. This narrative technique combined with brilliant editing reels you in from the very first episode as you get invested in the characters' outcomes in life. What could have otherwise been flat, and uninteresting, is dynamic.
This narrative also highlights the flaws of the drug business that the showrunners want the audience to pay attention to as these are the moments that affect the future of characters in the show. For instance, the death of a main character is narrated from two different perspectives in the first episode. The first from the perspective of the man who was the reason for the character's death and the other from the character's perspective. Between the two, we learn how a businessman was pulled into dealing drugs internationally and why this man uses his shipping company as a front despite how successful the legal side of it is.
Or, for that matter, when a corrupt special forces officer in Mexico is brought onboard an operation that he is expected to sabotage, we see how he manages to successfully stop the mission and also managed to get a leg up in the power food chain because of this narrative style.
Not many shows approach a storyline similar to 'ZeroZeroZero' and this approach made it an enjoyable watch above and beyond the captivating story!
'The Hidden Angle’ is a weekly column examining narratives, frames and sounds that add value to movies and shows but are not part of conversations surrounding their success or failure. The column will be published every Friday.