sat 20/07/2024

Hostages, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Hostages, BBC Four

Hostages, BBC Four

Tension runs high in Israeli original of television drama we know already

No normal night in: the Danon family has much to cope with

Hostages certainly whips along. We’re straight into conflict from the very start of the first episode, except it soon transpires that the real action will be taking place elsewhere. And it’ll be tighter, more excruciating than the bash-down-the-door atmosphere of the opening scene, which serves to introduce us to Adam Rubin (Jonah Lotan), a top operator in Israeli counter-terrorism who’s on his last day of service and concluding his final mission successfully.

We’ll be seeing more of Rubin later, or at least realising it’s him when he takes off his balaclava, having changed role from siege-breaker to hostage-taker.

Until then we’re introduced to the seemingly stable world of Jerusalem surgeon Yael Danon (Ayelet Zurer): at the top of her profession, impressively composed, she’s due to operate on the country’s prime minister, an assignment that, even if it’s a standard procedure, comes with greatly increased security attention. At least she has the evening before to wind down at home, in the company of her supportive husband and kids. Until something very unexpected comes up.

The most threatening feeling here is that the parties concerned are in very high places indeed

Sounding familiar? Hostages, or Bnei Aruba to give it its original title, is the second piece of Israeli television drama to have reached us through remake, with the US version broadcast on Channel 4 just over a year ago. The other import, of course, was Homeland. There’s less of Homeland’s wider worldview in evidence in Hostages, which is tackling distinctly claustrophobic territory, backed up by a score from Alon Cohen and Roy Nassee that goes the full whack on threatening electro-metallic throb sounds which rarely let up.

This is a strictly internal political conflict: someone wants the PM not to wake up after his operation, and is holding Danon’s family captive until she completes that mission by using an (obviously) undetectable substance in the best traditions of secret-service procurement. The most threatening feeling here is that the parties concerned are in very high places indeed. “We’re everywhere,” is one laconic remark made in passing to Danon which reveals the extent of wider collusion which allows the hostage-takers access to every single bit of hospital CCTV and to track her down (almost) every corridor.

Family tensions are brewing into the bargain. Father Eyal (Micha Celektar) is a teacher, the school head who’s concerned that exam questions are being leaked in advance, though he doesn’t know that his son Assaf (Yoav Rothman) is caught up in it. Daughter Noa (Dar Zuzovsky) also has something to tell her parents that she’d rather not have to. Add in the fact that the family seems to be facing financial problems (for a reason that’s yet to be explained), and the odds look stacked against them, to a degree that’s might seem rather on the forced, generic side.

But such details of surrounding atmosphere look like they're going to remain in the background – the razor-edge tension is enough. How directors Omri Givon and Rotem Shamir are going to sustain it over 10 episodes (40 minutes apiece) will be the main issue. How long can you keep up a hostage drama before someone cracks – which means the hostage-takers, as well as those taken? Ayelet Zurer as Yael (pictured above, with her politico patient) manages to look a cool character indeed when she turns up to work on the fateful morning, after a very disturbed night. “I’m calmer than usual,” she’s told by the head of the PM’s security detail. He must be the only one: the rest of us are going to be on the edge of our seats for the next month, until Hostages plays out.

Details of surrounding atmosphere are in the background – the razor-edge tension is enough


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Having watched Spiral, this in comparison is poor. Acting is largely hopeless , the only two reasonable are Yeal and Noa. The whole thing is unconvincing ... with gratuitous sex scenes and terrorists standing round like extras at times ... the husband, Eyal, is so wooden he's pathetic. This is not the type of show to follow Spiral. If the latter scored 10, this would be 4.

As a Spiral fan, I have to disagree with the previous post. Maybe this is not as good (the baddies do indeed tend to stand around like lemons) but it is a million times better than the US version, which I gave up on after 2 episodes. I just finished ep 7 and am constantly on tenterhooks.

Acting is largely hopeless , the only two reasonable are Yeal and Noa.

I was determined to follow this unfathomable piece of work if only to discover how it would be resolved. In the event I was left totally mystified. Was the PM killed? Why? Did he come back to life as in a miracle? Was he Adam's wife's father all the time? Where were all the bodies? Will the BBC supply me with a script so that I might be able to unscramble it? Etc. etc.

I watch BBC 4 9pm slot on Saturdays as it usually is the highlight of the week I did find Hostages to be unrealistic and chaotic more or less from the start but stuck with it in the hope that it would improve but it didn't happen and I did not care about any of the characters with the exception of the youngest of the 'terrorists' who always appeared to be unhappy with the situation. Hope BBC4 returns to the high calibre of drama it usually reverves for this slot. I notice Montalbano is returning and whilst completely different from the likes of The Killing, Spiral, The Bridge and Borgen, it is enjoyable if they aren't all repeats as they were last time.

What was on the film they watched on the computer. Was the prime minister raping someone?

Agree, not a patch on Spiral. If Adam Rubin's motive was securing compatible bone transplant material, what was all the unresolved "higher up" funding and support about? What happened to the plot line with the meeting at the marina restaurant and then the "ally" killing Moni? Baffling.

I really liked the show. But one thing confuses me. Why did Yael go and look over the hospital's CCTV shots and why did she think the morgue attendant was acting suspicious? Without that the rest of the show does not 'compute'!

the show is an allegory about Israel - the compromises and contradictions of a foreign policy rooted in exclusion and fear. Peoples actions are guided by absurd conditions created by overweening power assumptions…the hostage situation allows some of the most sacred cows of Israeli society to be explored, the army, the intelligence service, loyalty to the state and to the family. The ambiguous conclusions point to the need for some better answer than fortress Israel…this is the marrow of the story. It is Israel that needs the transplant…congratulations on a brilliant show, perfectly executed.

A day late and a dollar short but thank you. Puzzled that others compare it to Spiral. Why? Is Downton Abbey like Mad Men?

When she goes to her office her door is open and when she looks around he is acting suspiciously (also a photo is missing from the frame). 18:50.

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