mon 03/10/2022

Crossfire, BBC One review - pacy and nail-biting, the holiday from hell | reviews, news & interviews

Crossfire, BBC One review - pacy and nail-biting, the holiday from hell

Crossfire, BBC One review - pacy and nail-biting, the holiday from hell

Keeley Hawes gets caught up in a tense but heartless thriller

Keeley Hawes in 'Crossfire'BBC

A sun-baked island resort; Keeley Hawes taking a leisurely dip in an infinity pool as we hear her in voiceover musing on how events happen unchosen, with you in them; then we are up in her room, where she is texting somebody. The sounds of gunshots and mass panic jolt her into action. She rushes for her trainers – not flipflops, she admonishes herself, you are going to need to run.

Then flashback to her among a busload of excited tourists, arriving at the hotel, unaware of their fate, naturally. More musing on life, choices, fate etc. You sense that writer Louise Doughty (Apple Tree Yard) is trying to avoid the traditional arc of the disaster movie: that is, assemble a disparate bunch of people in an enclosed space far from anywhere, immerse the audience in their back stories, then after about 45-60 minutes start killing them off. In Crossfire, you hear shots in the first five minutes (it does what it says in the title), then proceed by fits and starts from there. 

It’s a sort of layer cake narrative: a base of scenes of imminent danger, then a filling of flashback, building up the characters’ back stories a bit; then more imminent danger, topped with a flashback, and so on. There’s only a slim possibility we will engage with these characters that well, though, as we know so little about them, even as a gunman starts targeting them. The script throws in a handy scene with a know-it-all man at the resort who is trying to guess the six friends' professions (though their names are rushed past: we have to struggle on, adding those in step by step). Daniel RyanWith the benefit of the cast list, I established: Hawes is Jo, a former cop turned security advisor to a department store, married unhappily to social worker Jason (Lee Ingleby), her second husband, who is unhappily working part-time. They have a young daughter and a son, 10, whom at first I thought was called Adam or Ben – though Ben turns out to be that reliable actor Daniel Ryan (pictured above), a male nurse and the husband of their friend Miriam (Josette Simon), a GP; Ben calls himself the “second in command”. The third couple are “Mr and Mrs Perfect”, Chinar and Abhi (Vikash Bhai and Anneika Rose); Chinar is the boss of a limousine hire company. Also in the group is Amara (Shalisha James-Davis), an older mixed-race teenager, who you eventually realise is Jo’s daughter from her first marriage.

Beyond that, key details seem to be that Jo has come up with this holiday plan, conceived at a drunken New Year’s Eve party, she and Jason are on very bad terms and Chinar is a good dad. The staff at their hotel speak Spanish, and there are German guests, which would put its location almost anywhere in the Mediterranean or the Canaries (where the series was in fact filmed).

It’s pacy, nail-biting, filmed verité-style for maximum tension – the holiday from hell. I confess I watched one episode with a mounting sense of dismay that all this talent was being spent on such a heartless exercise, and can’t face the remaining two. After the initial setup, there is clearly nowhere for the plot to go other than the obvious: there will be more fatalities; former cop Jo will have to prove herself, not least to her husband, and vice versa; and the reason for the gunmen’s attack will be made clear. A dead body floating in a pool managed a voiceover in Sunset Boulevard, after all, so there is no guarantee that Jo has survived all the shooting, of course.

If you enjoy watching this kind of torture, it's a four-star of the genre. But for me, please, no more scenes of terrified people, including children, trying to stay alive (and sometimes failing) in the name of entertaining drama. Accounts of actual terror attacks on tourists – in Mumbai, Sharm El-Sheik, Bali, Tunisia, Paris, Nice, Norway – make chilling reading without a visual equivalent driving the horror home. Must we?

It’s pacy, nail-biting, but there is nowhere for the plot to go other than the obvious

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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