Full of herky-jerky camera motion and walking pans, Steven Soderbergh’s limited series Full Circle may look like it was shot on a cellphone, but once the story gets rolling that distraction falls away. Soderbergh’s third collaboration with screenwriter Ed Solomon (Mosaic, No Sudden Move) is an urgent, immersive modern noir riddled with Hitchcockian tension and labyrinthine mystery plotting.
Set in New York City, Full Circle revolves around a convoluted revenge plot that entangles a Manhattan family with a Guyanese crime cartel. It begins when the Mahabir family—led by superstitious matriarch Savitri (CCH Pounder)—attempts to kidnap young Jared Browne (Ethan Stoddard) and extract a ransom from his wealthy parents Derek (Timothy Olyphant) and Sam (Claire Danes). Through a series of unfortunate turns, however, Savitri’s nephew Aked (Jharrel Jerome) nabs the wrong kid. This is just the first twist in a complex dance amongst numerous, angling players, stirring up a veritable hornet’s nest of hidden agendas. As the crisis plays out, a shrewd US Postal Service inspector named Mel Harmony (Zazie Beetz) chases down the clues, trying to make sense of the actions of criminals and victims alike. But Mel has her own closet skeletons, and they threaten to derail the investigation.
Soderbergh has shown a solid handle of suspense mechanics over his career, and Full Circle is no exception. The plot sure is convoluted, but the fun with this kind of twisty thriller is the execution, which is characteristically excellent. Soderbergh keeps the plates spinning adroitly, meanwhile wringing superb performances out of the entire cast, including the above, plus Adia, Sheyi Cole, Jim Gaffigan, Gerald Jones, Dennis Quaid, William Sadler, and Phaldut Sharma. (That said, Beetz is totally my favorite; I would follow the further investigative adventures of Mel in a heartbeat.) As in No Sudden Move, Solomon fuels the hugger-mugger with a fiery critique of capitalistic greed and complicity with injustice. Soderbergh brings home this powerful subtext with a haunting final image, making this slick, fast-moving thriller all the more satisfying.