Wednesday, 8 April 2015


hostages is a ten-part israeli drama series that recently aired on bbc4. it was also made in the states under the same name with dylan mcdermott (of american horror story) and toni colette. the american version actually aired first as the producers had bought the concept and made it before the israeli series had been completed, which isn't at all relevant to this review but i thought it was an interesting fact.

hostages concerns a talented surgeon, dr. yael danon (played by ayelet zurer), who is taken hostage along with her family on the eve of day she is to perform surgery on the prime minister. the hostage-takers, led by ex-cop adam rubin (jonah lotan), want yael to poison the prime minister during the surgery and will kill her family if she doesn't comply. in a series that takes no prisoners when it comes to its audience this high-stakes dilemma is merely the start of the danon family's problems.

hostages is a fast-paced, high concept thriller that throws us right into the action from the opening minutes and raises the stakes with each new twist and turn. despite how quickly it moves, the series never loses sight its characters and both the hostages and the hostage-takers are given equal focus. each of the family members had their own issues to deal with even before they were taken hostage, from the father who owes a considerable amount of money to a loan shark to the teenage daughter who has just discovered she is pregnant. essentially, we meet the family at a point where all these issues are about to reach boiling point, but moments before they do the family are taken hostage. the writers really use this to their advantage and often the family's problems become desperate solutions in outwitting the hostage takers.

the hostage takers too are well-characterised and never come across as cardboard cutout bad guys. this is most true of rubin who at the beginning of the first episode is shown to be an expert hostage negotiator himself so we know he knows the tricks of the trade (kind of like sam jackson in that movie, the negotiator). there is also unrest within the group and they are soon fighting among themselves as much as they are fighting with their hostages.

dr. yael danon is by far the best character in the series and one of the most interesting female characters i've seen on tv in a long time. in the first episode she fights back against rubin almost immediately, threatening to cut her own hands open so she can’t perform the surgery. from there she devises increasingly creative and increasingly desperate ways to thwart the hostage takers, knowing that her every move is being watched. zurer performs this grim determinaton in the face of impossible odds with real sincerity and manages to make some of the more unbelievable moments work.

hostages does at times test your suspension of disbelief and there are moments when the escalation and excruciating timing of events stretches plausibility, but then it’s still nowhere near approaching the dizzying insanity of something like 24. it’s only because the performances are so good and the series plays the reality of the situation so well that these moments stand out.

overall, the tension is played out really well and the pace is maintained throughout, whilst at the same time there is a constant air of mistrust and a sense that you can never take any of the characters on face value, even the good guys. however, what ultimately holds all this together and keeps you watching is the implied question in every scene – what would you do in this situation? how would you get out of this? comparing your own solutions to those of the characters makes this an endlessly entertaining series and one that is definitely worth a few hours of your time.

hostages is available now on dvd from arrow films

No comments:

Post a Comment