Warning: Some minor spoilers ahead for “Homecoming.”
Amazon’s “Homecoming” is a psychological thriller that’s worth watching.
Directed by Sam Esmail (creator of “Mr. Robot”), the series stars Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman, a woman who works at Homecoming, an independent program that seeks to help veterans who have returned from war with PTSD. She forms a close relationship with one of her patients, Walter Cruz (Stephan James), but her belief in the Homecoming program falters when she learns that the medication the men are taking is erasing specific memories from their brain.
There’s her smug boss Colin, played brilliantly by Bobby Cannavale, who discourages Heidi from asking too many questions about the program or worrying about her patients.
Years later, that part of her life is gone from her memory until she meets Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham), an employee for the Department of Defence who investigates a complaint made about the Homecoming program. His arrival sends Heidi on a search for the truth.
The series currently has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Why you should care: It’s based on a fictional podcast.
It is based on a fictional podcast created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg for Gimlet. The podcast ran for two seasons and featured Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris, and David Cross as the characters. According to Gimlet, the podcast “centres on a caseworker at an experimental facility, her ambitious supervisor, and a soldier eager to rejoin civilian life – presented in an enigmatic collage of telephone calls, therapy sessions, and overheard conversations.”
Horowitz and Bloomberg teamed up with Esmail to transfer the podcast to TV.
What’s hot: It’s hypnotising.
Critics have described the series as “Hitchcockian” for its psychological twists and filming style, and it’s true. Esmail masterfully creates suspense with his filming and editing technique. Using long, drawn out shots, quick cuts, and time jumps, Esmail crafts a sense of extreme paranoia and confusion.
The cinematography and set design are stunning and create a world that looks like its set in the ’70s and ’80s. And it very well could be, except for the cell phones and cars.
Another benefit is that most of the 10 episodes are around 30 minutes or less, proving that you don’t need to drag a drama out to 60 minute episodes.
What’s not: The pacing is disorienting.
“Homecoming” isn’t a series that you can put on in the background. Much of the plot is built on conversations between two people where important information isn’t necessarily being shared, but a vibe is being created that informs the rest of the series. And in most of the episodes, Heidi’s conversations with her boss are just over the phone.
Esmail also spends a lot of time creating tension and suspense with silence. Each episode ends with a long, drawn out scene where nothing ever happens.
It can be slightly disorienting to have so much time where nothing important occurs yet the stress remains.
The bottom line: It’s an addictive series that will suck you in.
“Homecoming” isn’t an action thriller where you’ll be worried about potential violence or a life-or-death situation. Instead, Esmail’s expertly crafts paranoia and stress through time jumps and human interactions.
The mystery surrounding what Homecoming really was, what happened at the center, and what happened to all of the people involved is slowly unravelled throughout the 10 episodes. You’re always worried that something dangerous is going to happen, but it never does, and that’s the show’s genius.
“Homecoming” is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Watch the trailer below.