Netflix delivers another highly binge-able European crime thriller in Capitani, a whodunit with a breakneck pace that’ll doubtlessly prove popular among the usual crowd.
This review of Capitani Season 1 is spoiler-free.
It wouldn’t be a week in 2021 without another international crime drama on Netflix, but they might well be onto a hit with Capitani, a pacey whodunit about the titular detective investigating a murder — and quickly a suicide — in a secretive village in Northern Luxembourg.
The general setup and aesthetic here is nothing new; a gossipy small-town feel, an outdoorsy rural backdrop, and local institutions used to running themselves without outside interference. Everyone knows everyone, including the victim — Jenny (Jil Devresse), twin sister of Tanja, now missing — and the potential suspects, ranging from the twins’ step-father Rob (Raoul Schlechter), their clearly dodgy biological father Mick (Jules Werner), a local mentally-ill man named Usch (Luc Feit), and squaddies from the local military base who turn up for six months out of the year to run maneuvers in the dense woodland where Jenny’s body was found with a bag full of pills.
It’s a compelling mystery in large part because of how interlocking all these elements turn out to be. Capitani (Luc Schiltz), an unwelcome outsider, recruits local uniform Elsa Ley (Sophie Mousel) as his partner since she’s familiar with the area. But her familiarity includes a relationship with one of the local soldiers, Steve Weis (Konstantin Rommelfangen), and personal connections to everyone who may or may not be involved, including the school’s principal, Weyrich (Jean-Paul Maes), and its mayor, Pierre Rommes (Jemp Schuster).
With twelve episodes all clocking in at under 30 minutes, Capitani absolutely rockets along, with every episode ending on a cliffhanger. It’s a welcome change of pace for this kind of serious European thriller, which all tend to be overlong and plodding. There’s also a welcome dose of humor now and again, mostly in Capitani chafing up against the tight-lipped locals, including another local uniform, Joe Mores (Joe Dennenwald), who has a fun turn as the well-intentioned but dopey sidekick. His outsider status also factors into the plot as he attempts to navigate local politics and business, with Mick’s construction company lopping down half the forest, a school drug ring, and the planned merger of local villages into a single large municipality all providing relevant subplots.
If anything, the show can be too pacey for its own good, which can hamper the suspense a little, and cut off subplots or red herrings that would have been better served with more time to simmer. But that’s a minor complaint. Anyone who’s into this kind of thing — and that must be a sizeable audience given how frequently Netflix releases them — will find a lot to like about Capitani Season 1. The only downside is it’ll be over before you know it.