Tuesday 17 September 2019

John Boland’s week in TV: In a week of monsters, The Capture starts with a bang

 

Tense opener: DI Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger) and Shaun Emery (Callum Turner) in The Capture. Photo by Guy Farrow
Tense opener: DI Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger) and Shaun Emery (Callum Turner) in The Capture. Photo by Guy Farrow

John Boland

Blatant lies told in the furtherance of power. A populist leader vowing to make the country great again. Party lackeys scrambling to fulfil his wishes. Calls for parliament to be suspended in a toxically-divided country.

This could be the current state of British politics or it could be the Rise of the Nazis (BBC2), but let's put both of these aside for a few paragraphs in favour of a six-part thriller that grips from the outset, leaves the viewer wanting more and boasts outstanding performances from its main protagonists.

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Holliday Grainger, who lit up the TV adaptations of JK Rowling's thrillers as Cormoran Strike's resourceful assistant and who returns to that role in the next few weeks, gets star billing in The Capture (BBC1), where she plays a young detective inspector who's faced with a disturbing puzzle.

Did ex-soldier Shaun (Callum Turner), who had just been cleared of a war crime in Afghanistan, beat up and abduct his female barrister on an empty street at night, as surveillance cameras seem to clearly show, or has all of this been manufactured by shadowy forces for their own sinister ends?

You weren't sure what or who to believe in this week's opening episode and the series, written and directed by Ben Chanan, already seems likely to become this year's must-see equivalent of Bodyguard - though hopefully without succumbing to the daft plot twists that disfigured the later episodes of Jed Mercurio's overpraised guessing game.

Turner is excellent as a soldier with an unreadable face, seemingly innocent, but with an insolence and a darkness lurking behind his eyes, while Grainger makes of her stock character - the ambitious female cop surrounded by dismissive male superiors - something much more subtle and intriguing.

Certainly, if you watched this tense opener, you won't want to miss its follow-up on Tuesday. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

I thought there was nothing more to be said about Hitler and his Third Reich, but illuminating historical context was provided by the first episode of the three-part Rise of the Nazis.

Indeed, narrator Kate Fleetwood could have been talking about current global political trends when observing at the outset that in 1930: "Germany is a liberal democracy with elections, parliament and the rule of law. Just four years later, freedom of speech is over, most of the political opposition is in jail and the government is in the hands of murderers. This is the story of how democracy dies."

How it all happened was set out with absorbing clarity and with telling contributions from Richard Evans and other eminent historians - Evans himself noting that Donald Trump's exhortation to "make America great again" echoed Hitler's simple and repeated mantra about making Germany great again - and this while presenting himself as "a man of the people".

Another monster, if of lesser significance, was the subject of Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein (BBC2). Here was a man who, according to his former secretary, "never took no for an answer", not just in his business dealings, but also in his sordid personal life, as many women found out to their cost.

In her admirable film, director Ursula Macfarlane persuaded some of these women to tell their stories about Weinstein, currently awaiting trial on sexual assault and rape charges - the majority of their recollections offered haltingly and with considerable signs of distress.

Most of them just froze when cornered in his hotel suite. "He's huge, you know," one of them said. "You just wanted it to be over," another recalled. "Do you really want to make me an enemy for five minutes of your time?" he warned yet another.

We Need to Talk About Ross (RTÉ1) was a profile of journalist Paul Howard and his famous satirical creation, the rugby-loving ex-Castlerock College prat Ross O'Carroll-Kelly, but Adrian McCarthy's film was so enamoured of its subject that I was no wiser about the man himself or his alter ego.

There were far too many encomiums from Howard's Irish Times colleagues and such sporting heroes as Brian O'Driscoll and Johnny Sexton, clearly as star-struck by Ross as he is of them, that the whole thing rapidly turned into a love-in.

We learned a bit about Howard's Ballybrack background and quite a lot about his prodigious workrate (with 19 Ross books published), but he remained an elusive presence - so that when there was glancing mention of him defecting to the Irish Times from the Sunday Tribune, apparently because of a slighting review in the latter, this intriguing snippet just ended there without any more detail or explanation. And amid all the backslapping, you got no real sense of just how funny Howard's awful anti-hero can be in his take on contemporary Ireland.

50 Years of the Troubles: A Journey Through Film (Channel 4) was the unwieldy title of an interesting evocation of a boyhood spent in Belfast by movie critic Mark Cousins, though you had to get beyond his mannered and somewhat arch vocal delivery.

He was four when the Troubles erupted in 1969 and though he opted to make Edinburgh his home from the age of 18, memories of his native Belfast remained vivid and were vividly recalled here - not least in his rhapsodic recollection of picture houses that are now long gone, including the 2,000-seat Ritz, which was firebombed in 1977, thereby becoming "one less place to escape to".

And he was good, too, on such diverse movies as Carol Reed's Odd Man Out and Neil Jordan's Angel.

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