Sunday 15 September 2019

The Capture review: Riveting start to perfect thriller for era of the deepfake

4 stars

Shaun Emory (Callum Turner) and Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger) struggle to believe the evidence in front of their eyes in new BBC series The Capture
Shaun Emory (Callum Turner) and Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger) struggle to believe the evidence in front of their eyes in new BBC series The Capture

Pat Stacey

Modern technology is one of the best things to happen to television and films, and also one of the worst.

On the one hand, CGI means a series like Game of Thrones can create a world that never existed, complete with unnervingly convincing dragons. Not so long ago, this would have been way beyond the reach of television.

On the other, the ubiquity of the internet and the smartphone means countless movies made before the 1990s couldn’t be made the same way today. The plots would be unusable.

In an article from 2011, Joe Queenan humorously points out that nobody in a modern movie would try to strangle someone to death with a telephone cord, as the would-be killer in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder did, because nobody under the age of 70 has a landline any more.

For that matter, imagine if Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode had had a mobile in the original Halloween. She’d simply have rung the cops the first time crazed killer Michael Myers showed his masked face.

He’d have been back in his padded cell within five minutes, many lives would have been saved and audiences would have been spared all those terrible sequels.

On the plus side, dangerous technology has opened a whole new territory for writers of thrillers, and especially paranoid thrillers.

When a writer finds the sweet spot between a strong premise and the credible use of modern technology, the result can be something as good as Ben Chanan’s six-part thriller The Capture, which kicked off on BBC1 last night with an opening episode that gripped like wet rope.

Chanan said he was inspired by 1970s films like Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View and Capricorn One.

He’s taken the best elements of a classic conspiracy thriller and welded them to the urgently topical theme of how video footage is being manipulated to create false narratives and fake news — such as the recent viral video, circulated online by Trump supporters, which simply slowed down footage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by 25pc, making it appear that she was drunk and slurring her words.

The Capture, which is the perfect thriller for the era of the deepfake, takes things a step further. But one suspects it’s only a disturbingly small step.

Callum Turner plays Shaun Emery, a British soldier who’s convicted of murdering a terrorist insurgent in cold blood in Afghanistan as he lay on the ground, apparently unarmed. The killing was captured on a fellow soldier’s helmet-cam and the evidence seems damning.

At Emery’s appeal, however, a video expert (Paul Ritter) reveals that the images and the sound captured by the camera are out of sync by several seconds, which puts a completely different interpretation on the footage and renders the conviction dangerously unsafe.

Emory walks free. Eighteen hours later, however, he’s arrested again, charged with assaulting and abducting his female barrister, with whom he’s become romantically involved.

Earlier, we’d seen Emory kiss her goodnight, before she went to get her bus home. CCTV footage, however, appears to show Emory punching and then dragging her away after the bus has gone.

The investigating copper is Rachel Carey (the excellent Holliday Grainger, from BBC1’s Strike), a fast-tracked detective inspector with the Met who’s recently been transferred from the counter-terrorism unit to the murder squad and is resented by some of her new teammates.

She’s supposedly been moved to broaden her experience. But could the transfer have something to do with the affair she’s having with an older, married colleague? Is she too under surveillance from shadowy figures?

Cleverly, the episode holds back crucial bits of information until the cliffhanger final moments, which leaves the viewer in as much doubt about what they’ve seen as the characters. A riveting start.


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