Having been a little busy recently I've just got around to watching this new BBC drama off the ol' Skybox and treated myself to a double bill last night. Ever since the mighty Spooks ended, there's been a big Spooks shaped hole in the schedules which this new Kudos production hopes to fill. Spooks' DNA is apparent in its tale of spies who can't trust each other but American writer Frank Spotnitz's scripts also owe a heavy debt to J..J Abrams' Alias and to recent movies such as Haywire and Salt. Like Spooks it is completely implausible, devoid of humour or nuance but shares its visceral style and addictive nature.
Melissa George plays Sam Hunter, a security operative working for the privately run Byzantium. On a mission in Tangiers to retrieve a Doctor from a local mobster, Sam takes part in an elaborate Mission; Impossible type sting to free him only to be betrayed and shot after arranging a romantic rendevous with fellow agent Aiden Marsh (Adam Raynor) to tell him they are pregnant. The action picks up a year later, with Sam, very not dead, running up hills in Scotland but still looking pretty and not at all sweaty, before announcing to Byzantium that she is still alive. Straight away she's thrust back into the field but her real agenda is to work out which of her team betrayed her and why.
Frank Spotnitz's script is full of characters with macho names (Hunter, Deacon, Keel, Marsh) who issue dialogue that no real person would ever think of. Byzantium's boss, Rupeert Keel, starts spouting off about chaos theory when Sam returns and, like American soaps, every scenes ends with a character leaving the room after uttering a momentous or cutting utterance. The agents are all chised jawed apart from the token ordinary looking woman Zoe, with Mr. Echo from LOST (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) as the solemn Deacon. Aiden Marsh has the looks of a model with fashionable stubble. Not one character is believable.
And yet, there's something compulsive about Hunted. It may not be realistic or even that original but we all love a good spy/conspiracy tale and the pace is fast and its stylishly shot. The new mission which has Sam posing as an American to ingratiate herself to the family of a dodgy British gangster (played with typical understatement by the excellent Patrick Malahide) and soon both plots are intertwining, with a spooky hitman (who kills people by injecting them in the eyeball with a syringe of poison - ugh!) after Sam but also somehow involved in the plot in Britian too. As well as this, a strange man with a scar is hunting Sam too and has killed Sam's old friend from her army days. There's certainly no time to get bored and, like Spooks, there's the sense that no-one is safe, with fellow operative Hassan dying in Episode 2. You can sense that Spotnitz is lining up a set of moral quandries for our heroine too - she is tasked with killing Hassan before he talks in episode 2 and she is conflicted as her cover involves lying to a child, which is obviously a sore point after the loss of her own unborn baby.
A lot depends on Melissa George. As Sam she is suitably tactiturn and vulnerable but doesn't really convince as an action heroine, despite the skillful editing of the Jason Bourne type fights. She's very slight and skinny and yet we're meant to believe she can hold her own against huge burly blokes with muscles on their muscles. Looking at Melissa, painfully scawny in a scene when she's in her undies, you'd believe you could just blow her over. She's better at the emotional stuff, be it sleeping in a corner of the room as she doesn't feel safe in a bed or in her pained expression as she watches young Edward sleeping. There's also the Life on Mars type flashbacks of something horrible that happened to her mother when Sam was a child to add yet another level of intrigue. Hunted is far from perfect but it has more than enough going for it to get you tuning in the following week.
GK Rating: ****
Right - for readers of my little blog, that's it for a couple of weeks as I'm off to China on a school trip. Expect numerous missives on Merlin and the like when I get back! Thanks for reading and see you soon!