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The Insider guide on what to watch in the next week


Castles in the Sky

Castles in the Sky

BBC/Hero Film & TV/Amanda Searle

Castles in the Sky

Television: Castles in the Sky, Tonight, 9pm, BBC One

As well as a world-conquering comedian, Eddie Izzard has also long plied his trade as an actor. His roles have usually been comedic in nature; he just has one of those voices that sounds funny no matter what he's saying. There's always a sarcastic note in there somewhere. For that reason we're curious to see how he does in this feature-length drama in which he plays Robert Watson Watt, a real-life figure who was instrumental in helping the RAF win the Battle of Britain. He did this by inventing radar.

In the 1930s, with war looming, the British government was anxious about the possibility of aerial bombings. Watt's idea was to come up with an early warning system using radio waves that could detect approaching aircraft from miles away. To us reading this today, it seems elementary, but at the time his ambition was dismissed by Winston Churchill himself as preposterous as "castles in the sky", while he and his fellow scientists were disregarded as a bunch of weathermen from provincial universities. Yet they continued to strive to achieve their dreams against all odds, to the detriment of their personal lives and at the cost of some of their marriages.

We've all heard the stories of heroism and altruism from Britain during the war, but Watson-Watt's story has never been dramatised in this way before. On the topic of his leading role Eddie Izzard says he feel privileged to be playing the role. "Hopefully our production will allow him, along with his team to finally take their places in the pantheon of British greats of World War II as the inventors of radar. Without it, the Nazis would probably have been able to invade and occupy our country. So the future of the free world might well have been saved by these unlikely men and their brilliant work leading up to the Battle of Britain. Their names are not famous, and that is a mistake we must rectify."

Izzard's aforementioned amusing persona will be tricky to see past for this dramatic role, but it looks as though he may bring an air of innocence, even naivety, to Watt. After all, he probably wasn't planning to save the world with his quirky invention. There's a story about him that says he was stopped for speeding in Canada later in life by a policeman with a radar gun, to whom he commented: if I had known this is what it would be used for, I'd never have invented it."

Stream It

Lost: Seasons 1 - 7 available on Sky On Demand

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. The famous numbers are just one part of the complex and exasperating jigsaw puzzle that was Lost, easily one of the most talked-about TV series of the 2000s, and therefore ever. When the survivors of a plane crash find themselves stranded on a tropical island, they await rescue but mysterious forces, hostile natives and a zillion other problems await them, including that "smoke monster". Over the course of seven series the plot of Lost became utterly ridiculous, with dual timelines, flashbacks, flash forwards, never-resolved cliffhangers and countless unanswered questions. But was it any good? Yes and no. It was certainly a victim of its own success, but it's probably time for a reappraisal. That's right: Kate, we've got to go back.

Record It

Peter Kay: Live and Back on Nights, Saturday, 9pm, Channel 4

Say what you want about the brand of observational comedy employed by the likes of Peter Kay and many others these days, but there are some facts that cannot be disputed: family friendly stand up is a very big business, and Kay is undoubtedly the tallest hog in the trough. His last tour encompassed a massive 18 months on the road, taking in 140 dates and an audiences of more than 1m people. This makes it officially the biggest, most successful stand up tour in history, as confirmed in 2012 by the Guinness world record people. This two part documentary follows the likeable comedian on this tour, with behind the scenes footage aplenty as well as extensive material from the stage. They say actors pretend to be other people and comedians pretend to be themselves, so it should be interesting to see what's behind that workingman's club persona.

Watch It

Euro 2016 Qualifier: Ireland v Georgia, Sunday, 4.30pm, RTE Two

Sunday is a peculiar time to sit down for an international football match, but here goes anyway. Republic of Ireland's qualification for the 2016 European Championship starts here, as Martin O'Neill's squad travel to Tblisi to take on Georgia. With ties against Gibraltar, Poland, Scotland and (gulp) Germany to come over the next twelve months , this game - O'Neill's first competitive outing since taking the reins last November - will be at least a chance to take a look at the team's confidence levels and how they perform under the new manager. It's been a fairly disastrous couple of years for the boys in green, when the excitement about qualifying for Euro 2012 quickly turned to shock and embarrassment and horror with three crushing defeats out of three in the group stages, but ever onwards. On paper we look good for a second place qualification, but there's a long way to go yet.


Before I Go to Sleep

Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong


Ever since an accident years before, Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every day with no memory of the past decade of her life. Everything is strange and alien - her home, her husband, her face, everything. Every morning her husband (Firth) attentively and gently reminds her of her situation before leaving her to her devices. Unbeknownst to him, however, is that every day Christine also meets with benign Doctor Nash (Strong), who aims to help her piece her life together without her husband's help by recording a secret video diary so that she can hold on to information about herself.

Of course, such is Christine's situation that she, like us, finds herself suspicious of both men in her life when inconsistencies with what they're telling her begin to pop up. But is this a by-product of her own paranoia? Is she slipping further away from reality, and if she therefore cannot even trust herself, then who can she trust? Before I Go to Sleep is adapted from the 2011 novel by S.J. Watson.

The amnesia and/or memory loss set up is something we've seen plenty of times before in movies. It's a handy plot device that enables the filmmakers to align the main character perfectly with the audience. We are as in the dark as they are, and so each plot twist is supposedly coming with no warning whatsoever. Like Guy Pearse's tattoos in Memento or Matt Damon's multiple passwords, the engine that keeps the movie going and gradually brings Christine back to the light is her video diary. But the kicker there is we as the audience are trained to be always on the lookout for plot twists, always suspicious of everyone. For that reason we tend to be looking so closely for those clues that we inevitably spot them before Christine and find ourselves unwillingly one step ahead of her sometimes. On top of that, it's a shame then that the twists and turns in Before I Go to Sleep aren't quite as shocking as they might have been.

That said, this is a satisfyingly slow-burning tale with performances and tone that you might not expect from such a film. It's psychological thriller-mystery, part kitchen sink drama, shot by director Rowan Joffe in a quiet, still manner that belies Christine's murky, scrambled mind. It's small cast with little in the way of support or extras gives it an air of artiness and high drama that films of this nature are sometimes missing. Nicole Kidman is typically fragile and wary, while Firth's icy Ben plays perfectly against Mark Strong's too-good-to-be-true Nash. However, when the third-act twists and eventual payoff do come, we find ourselves shrugging as if to say "oh that was it" rather than picking our jaws up from the floor. Ultimately it's saved by the cast of three, in particular Strong. His physicality and skills make him one of our favourite supporting actors out there; when will he begin to take the lead?

Irish Independent