TV review: Hostages
The ‘new 24’, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, is not one for fans of the measured approach
Over the last decade, critics have lavished praise on long-running US dramas which feel no need to show its hand too early. The Sopranos, Mad Men, The Wire and even the occasionally preposterous Breaking Bad are at their best when holding back a little and steadily revealing plot and character details so that maximum shock and awe is experienced by the watcher. If those shows are marathon, elegant foreplay sessions, Hostages is a rather rough quickie during a very short lunch break.
Then again, no one should expect anything remotely resembling subtlety from a Jerry Bruckheimer production. When the man behind the likes of Top Gun, Pearl Harbor and CSI stops laying it on thick, that’ll be the day Bruce Willis takes up counted-thread embroidery. Dr Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) is the number one surgeon in the US and the woman the president calls on when he needs to go under the knife. But when hostage-takers (inexplicably led by FBI’s top maverick hostage negotiator Duncan Carlisle, played by the impossibly broody Dylan McDermott) threaten to kill all her family unless she slips her beloved leader a lethal liquid when he’s none the wiser. But when Sanders refuses to play ball, she and Carlisle indulge in a dangerous game of bluff and counter bluff.
We’re used to our TV heroes being flawed individuals now, but the bad guy with a bleeding soul and upstanding citizen with a dark secret motifs are played here to almost cartoon effect. It takes about ten minutes for us to find out that every member of the Sanders family is harbouring a guilty conscience and another four minutes to discover that the kidnappers (definitely the most attractive bunch of felons ever gathered together on a small screen) might actually have a human side to them, despite the horrendous demands they issue with virtually each passing scene.
With Homeland probably having busted its own flush with that traumatic third season finale and 24 just a distant memory to all adrenaline-fixated TV fans, the ludicrously plotted, fast-paced conspiracy thriller sub-genre doesn’t look at all safe in Hostages’ hands.
Hostages starts on Channel 4, Sat 11 Jan, 9pm.