The Brink’s-Mat gold bullion theft – the subject of new BBC One drama The Gold – is so infamous it deserves a monument.
Dedicated on 26th November 1983, by six men who broke into a lock in London Heathrow in order to get a million pounds, but went for gold instead.
In the claustrophobic opening minutes of this BBC drama, the audience is given a front-row seat as career criminals break in, overpower two guards, and then make off with over three tonnes of gold bullion.
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Swaddled in balaclavas, sporting firearms, and taking no prisoners: creator Neil Forsyth (Guilt) ensures The Gold starts strong and continues to deliver.
Starring Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Jack Lowden (Slow Horses), and Dominic Cooper (Preacher), The Gold makes every dramatic moment of this robbery personally relatable, shaping a compelling story from real-life events. . Different social classes come together to launder the largest amount of gold ever stolen, before anyone across the country can pay for their scheme.
DCI Nicki Jennings (Charlotte Spencer) and Tony Brightwell (Emun Elliott) are the first to arrive when Brink’s-Mat is called in. With a security guard injured for questioning, a massive amount of precious metal speeding its way to an unknown destination, and news headlines emerging, these two have their work cut out for them.
Meanwhile, across town Kenneth Noye (Jack Lowden) gets a phone call and soon sees him standing around some gold bars making small talk. With the salary world fighting its garage, and alarm bells still ringing, it will be a race against time for the Gold immediately. Gold merchant John Palmer (Tom Cullen), a close friend of Kenneth’s and a legitimate businessman, is the first piece of this international money laundering outfit.
On the other list is Edwyn Cooper (Dominic Cooper), a respected lawyer interested in the upper class, who offers to set up shell companies, and Swiss bank accounts. Number two is Gordon Parry (Sean Harris), who acts as an agent for the purchase of property in London, which allows illegal money to be laundered, reducing the Brink’s-Mat bullion.
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This rapidly engineered system, believed to be the brainchild of Kenneth Noye, turned millions of pounds of liquid metal into tangible assets very quickly. Making this polished piece of true crime TV drama both engrossing and addictive. Not only does DCI Brian Boyce (Hugh Bonneville) lead a special task force, absorbing both Jennings and Brightwell into his team, but also when cracks begin to appear and pressure builds elsewhere.
When connections are finally made and surveillance teams from across the UK come together, a real sense of time disappears. As DCI Brian Boyce, Hugh Bonneville buries his calm demeanor under a sheet metal facade. After being instrumental in bringing down The Krays, as well as Ronald Biggs, who masterminded The Great Train Robbery, this formidable force of nature gradually uses every tool at his disposal to capture his quarry .
However, when The Gold really comes to life in terms of drama, it starts with those intimate relationships. The how, when and where of Brink’s-Mat is less interesting than the why. Whether the motivations of the characters involved are based on unfulfilled ambitions, as they are with Edwyn Cooper, or worse, defined by childhood trauma like John Palmer, creator Neil Forsyth simply uses the robbery as a starting point for something something much more interesting.
At an hour each episode, The Gold is not long but instead maintains momentum through smart choices. As a piece of drama, it focuses mainly on Kenneth Noye, John Palmer, DCI Brian Boyce, and Edwyn Cooper.
While there’s an argument to be made for calling this an ensemble piece, it’s also fair to say that Jack Lowden and Dominic Cooper lead the charge in terms of acting.
The creation of the latter leaves the insecurity of the working class, which does not go away whatever he does. Whether marrying into privilege, being looked down upon by his father-in-law, or harboring the need to move away from old-fashioned values, Edwyn Cooper remains an intriguing proposition.
Kenneth Noye is equally enigmatic in the hands of Jack Lowden, who gives this middle class master a fly on the edge of the night, without going into cliché. After showing a striking resemblance to Gary Oldman in Slow Horses as River Cartwright, this performance will go some way to cementing his growing reputation as a formidable screen presence.
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Moreover, what makes The Gold so attractive is a combination of factors. All that aside, this BBC drama is dripping with detail, period-specific research, and old-fashioned characters that will bring to mind the golden age of television.
Tightly scripted, cleverly constructed, and yet shrouded in mystery – this diamond is deliberately worth its weight in gold.
All episodes of The Gold are now available on BBC iPlayer.