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What would “Luther” be without London? More specifically, what would the series be without its dark interpretation of the English Capital? Over five seasons of “Luther,” creator and writer Neil Cross has maintained a commitment to delving under the carapace of the city, eschewing standard shots of recognizable landmarks in favor of unearthing a grimy underbelly. Of course, that’s all mirrored in the character of Luther himself. Since the show debuted in 2011, Idris Elba’s tortured detective has endured all manner of harrowing experience, witnessing friends and family die and coming to represent a human manifestation of the very urban decay that surrounds him. And what better place for a brilliant yet haunted detective to operate than in a great yet eroding city?

Cross explained his specific vision of London to IndieWire back in 2016, characterizing it as “exaggerated [and] operatic” and as “a kind of psychological landscape.” That psychological landscape has become even more operatic with the recent release of the first “Luther” movie, Luther: The Fallen Sun” on Netflix, wherein the damaged DCI has to escape from prison to hunt down Andy Serkis’ “cyber psychopath” David Robey.

One of the film’s most visually intriguing sequences occurs when Luther chases Robey into the London Underground, eventually pursuing him onto the tracks and into an abandoned area of the city’s famous transit system. By now, you would have thought a series concerned with London’s forgotten and overlooked areas would have made use of such an obvious shooting location. But for whatever reason, this is the first time the eponymous Chief Inspector has found himself in the so-called “ghost tunnels” of London.

London’s ‘Ghost’ Tunnels And Stations

In “Fallen Sun,” Luther finds himself witnessing a mass killing in Piccadilly Circus, orchestrated by Andy Serkis’ David Robey. The serial killer, who’s also present to observe the grim scene, then escapes Luther — himself on the run after escaping prison — by fleeing into the Underground and disappearing onto the tracks and down a tunnel. Luther then pursues him to one of the abandoned Tube stations where a fight ensues.

Those disused areas of the Underground are actually quite extensive and have existed for some time, which isn’t surprising considering the first London Underground train rolled out all the way back in 1863. Over the following 160 years, various tunnels and stations have become disused, some being repurposed as shelters during the Blitz, others being turned into breakout rooms, and more still simply lying abandoned.

All of which made them the perfect filming location for “Fallen Sun” and its gritty vision of London. Specifically, Aldwych Tube Station, which first opened in 1907, played host to Luther and Robey’s clash. The abandoned stop was actually used for almost 100 years before being closed in 1994 due to low passenger numbers — a fate that befell a number of other London Underground stations over the years. During that time it not only served as a World War II bomb shelter, it was also used by the National Gallery and British Museum to house valuable items from their collections during the Blitz. And now, it’s become the site of Luther and Robey’s physical confrontation, providing a suitably ghostly backdrop against which the haunted detective and his ghoulish foe face off.

Transport For London Loves Luther

/Film’s own Hannah Shaw-Williams caught up with Fallen Sun” director Jamie Payne and writer Neil Cross, who revealed that TfL (Transport For London) has many “fans of Luther.” That allowed the production team access to the abandoned areas of the London Underground, which turned out to be a significant get for the movie in the sense it allowed Cross to continue his trend of infusing “Luther” with a fear element. As Payne explained:

“[TfL have] helped Luther along the way in difficult locations all the way through the series. So they were willing to open up the tunnels and let us film in there. And let me tell you, there was a moment when I was talking about the sequence and Neil and I went down. It was just Neil and I down in these ghostly tunnels, those sounds and those shadows. Now I’d been down there a few times before, but watching Neil react to this space afresh really reminded me, the thing that Neil talks about a lot. He writes this incredible primal fear into these stories because it’s what he feels.”

It certainly makes for a creepy sequence, and one perfectly befitting the bleak tone of Luther as a show. For his part, Serkis — who found Cross’ script so dark he wanted to, “throw it in the bin” — was somewhat creeped out himself while filming in the tunnels and at Aldwych station, telling /Film:

“[It was} really spooky. Do you know what the spookiest thing about shooting those tunnels was that there was a poster which said, ‘Britain is about to join the EU. Please vote to join. 1973.’ It was just like, ‘Oh my God, what have we done?’ […] Really, really freaky those tunnels and great to shoot in, actually.”

The Perfect Shooting Location

While Luther: The Fallen Sun,” with its high-stakes hunt for a resourceful serial killer, might not be the best entry in the ongoing “Luther” saga, it stays true to Neil Cross’ original vision of a dark and decaying London. That’s something the series creator was keen to ensure when transitioning from the small screen. Talking to the Radio Times, Cross explained:

“The history of moving from TV to bigger screens is not a happy one, but that’s because they get a bit more money and immediately take them out of that world and send them somewhere else. We were clear that whatever we did had to belong to the same territory that we’d established in the TV series. It couldn’t be Luther in Marbella. It still had to smell and sound and feel like Luther.”

That’s something the movie has clearly managed, while simultaneously upping the ante with the aforementioned mass killing which unfolds in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. But it’s the subterranean sequence that follows which reminds us why we loved “Luther” and its bleak vision of the English Capital to begin with. Interestingly, it recalls a similar sequence from “Skyfall” in which Daniel Craig’s Bond chases Javier Bardem’s Rauol Silva into Charring Cross station before the pair move deeper into the lesser used tunnels of the London Underground. In a movie where Neil Cross makes a very intentional James Bond joke, and considering the hype surrounding Idris Elba as a possible Bond replacement, I can’t help but wonder if Cross took some inspiration from Craig’s 2012 007 outing here. Whatever the case, I actually think it works better within the context of “Luther” and its dingy “psychological landscape” of a city. Though I gotta say, I would love to see “Luther in Marbella.”

Read this next: Why These Actors Left Hit TV Shows

The post Luther: The Fallen Sun Shot Scenes In The ‘Ghost Tunnels’ Of The London Underground [Exclusive] appeared first on /Film.

/Film – Luther: The Fallen Sun Shot Scenes In The ‘Ghost Tunnels’ Of The London Underground [Exclusive]
Author: Joe Roberts
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March 10, 2023

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