mon 29/11/2021

Hostages, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Hostages, Channel 4

Hostages, Channel 4

From Israel via Jerry Bruckheimer, a knotty saga of treason in high places

More than her job's worth: Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) tells Dr Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) the Prez must die

Having brought us to the end of Homeland, Channel 4 are hoping lightning will strike twice by introducing another American series based on an Israeli original. Where Homeland was the American version of Hatufim, Hostages is derived from Bnei Aruba, made by Israel's Channel 10, who sold the format to CBS before the original had even been completed.

Not that this is another war-on-terror saga, unless a theme of that nature should happen to pop up later in the series. This time, the plot revolves around an elite surgeon, Dr Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette), and her family. As the first episode opens, she's preparing to perform an operation on US President Kincaid (James Naughton) to remove an unspecified lump from his lung.

Imagine her surprise when, the night before the scheduled operation, a gang of armed and masked men invade her luxurious home and take herself, her husband, two children and photogenic dog hostage (family misfortunes, pictured above). They want Sanders to make sure the President doesn't survive the operation by administering a mystery substance while he's on the operating table, which will be both lethal and undetectable. If she refuses, her family will suffer.

It was unexpected when the home invaders peeled off their balaclava helmets (as Sanders's daughter Morgan wailed, "that means they'll have to kill us"), and baffling that their leader should be Duncan Carlisle (whose lady-killer stubble could only belong to Dylan McDermott). We'd already seen Carlisle in action in his day job as a daring and decisive FBI hostage negotiator, coolly shooting a hostage dead because his Sherlockian powers of deduction told him that said hostage was in fact the hostage-taker. "His boots didn't match his suit," he rapped laconically. If he's the bad guy, there must be a reason. Something to do with his wife's ongoing cancer treatment, perhaps. Maybe, Breaking Bad style, he has medical bills no honest man could pay.

So, it's an intriguing setup which you could imagine working well as a movie plot, and since Hostages is a scion of the rambunctious Jerry Bruckheimer production empire, this pilot episode galloped along through short, punchy scenes, the tension screwed tighter by lots of throbbingly tense background - or more accurately, foreground - music (Ellen preps President Kincaid, pictured below).

However, this is a 15-part series, so the writers will have had to work hard to stop us going stir-crazy from being cooped up inside the Sanders family home, as they eat breakfast, send text messages or watch TV under the brooding gaze of their captors. Looks like the story is going to develop as a battle of wits between Ellen and Carlisle, with Ellen scoring the first touchdown by ingeniously slipping the President a blood-thinning drug so that his operation had to be delayed for a fortnight.

Crafty, too, is the way the kidnappers know more about the family than they do themselves. For instance, Carlisle exerts extra leverage over Ellen's husband Brian (Tate Donovan) by showing him surveillance photos of him in flagrante with his lover, while the kidnappers know, but Mr and Mrs Sanders don't, that their daughter is pregnant and their son Jake owes 1200 bucks to a drug dealer with psychotic tendencies. And meanwhile, who is really running the plot to kill the President? Perhaps there was a clue in Mrs Kincaid's remark to her husband that she was worried that Chief of Staff Quentin Creasy would "pull an Al Haig while you're under and declare martial law." And maybe he wouldn't stop there.

Ellen scored the first touchdown by ingeniously slipping the President a blood-thinning drug so his operation had to be postponed


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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