Friday, 7 October 2011

Hidden, BBC One (Philip Glenister, Thekla Reuten)

Here's a review of last night's first part of Hidden what I wrote for Orange .

Watching it from a writing point of view, I really liked the way the flashbacks gradually rolled out to introduce bits of exposition that informed the present-day action. Very neatly done by writer Ronan Bennett.

From its opening montage of apparently unrelated scenes, it was obvious that Hidden – a four-part conspiracy thriller – was going to require a bit of attention. As it turned out, the opening episode struck a nice balance between intrigue and clarity, luring the viewer effectively into a shadowy world where very little might be what it seems. 

Hidden stars Philip 'Not Gene Hunt' Glenister as Harry Venn, a down-at-heel London solicitor. In true noir fashion, his world is turned upside down when a mysterious femme fatale – lawyer Gina Hawkes (Thekla Reuten) – turns up at his office and offers him a job.

And it's not just any job. In return for finding a man who can provide an alibi for her client (a delightfully creepy cameo from Friday Night Dinner's Paul Ritter), she offers Harry the teasing possibility of some new information about the death of his brother 20 years earlier.

The mystery deepens when Harry and his assistant fail to find any trace of either Gina or the company she claims to represent. Why is she so interested in a violent incident from Harry's past? Whose side is she on – and what are the sides anyway?

Meanwhile, London is blighted by rioting as coalition prime minister Brian Worsley (David Mosley) struggles to hold his government together. Rising political star Alexander Wentworth (Bertie Carvel) smells blood and starts to circle the wounded PM – with the backing of influential power-brokers such as media mogul Elspeth Verney (Anna Chancellor).

The script, by Ronan Bennett, rolls out the mystery very nicely. Flashbacks gradually reveal aspects of Harry's past but still make it clear we haven't seen the full picture yet. It also neatly introduces elements of the bigger picture, teasing us with the hint that whatever Harry's got himself involved in goes to the highest levels of money and power.

All in all, Hidden is a very enjoyable and timely conspiracy thriller. It might not be quite as deliriously bonkers – sorry, “stylised” – as The Shadow Line, but it's a taut and atmospheric drama that manages to be complex without being confusing. Harry might be heading for some dark places, but viewers are going to be tempted to follow him.

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