Israeli TV drama Hostages, the latest series to occupy the same BBC Four timeslot as prestigious foreign dramas The Killing, The Bridge, and Prisoners of War, has already encapsulated viewers and earned itself a well regarded US remake (starring Dylan McDermott). Now, with the DVD out to own (on March 16th), we look at what made Hostages such a break-out hit.
Coming from Israel (the same country which gave the world Prisoners of War – the basis for the US hit series Homeland), Hostages tells the story of a well respected female surgeon who has her entire family taken hostage the evening before she’s set to operate on the Israeli Prime Minister, and gets issued with a single demand; kill the Prime Minister on the operating table, or she will have her entire family killed.
It sounds like there’s only two, or possibly three, episodes worth of content with a premise such as this (set-up, execution, and fallout), but the creators and writers behind Hostages have managed to craft a wonderfully engrossing show which will grip you from the beginning, and races through its ten-part series with an extremely brisk pace which is reminiscent of 24, and comes packing far more twists, turns, and shocks than you could ever imagine.
Not only do we see Yael (the surgeon, played by Man of Steel star Ayelet Zurer) wrestling with the ethical dilemmas behind breaking her oath as a doctor, murdering someone (not just anyone – the Prime Minister), and at the same time wanting to do anything possible to save her family, but there’s discord within the ranks of the terrorists holding her family, internal beefs at Yael’s hospital, obviously increased security, and the fact each one of her family members is hiding their own secrets (with everything from money troubles, stealing, and pregnancy) to contend with.
The writing staff also handled each of the events, secrets, and twists exceptionally well. As Hostages remains constantly engaging, is extremely clever, and is guaranteed to have you sitting on the edge of your seat guessing how it’ll all play out through the entirety of its tremendously tense ten-part run.
Each one of the main stars also do an excellent job of fulfilling their various roles; Ayelet Zurer is the stand-out star of the show (and the most recognisable name to Western viewers) and delivers a solid turn as the troubled doctor, while each member of the family also effectively embodies their respective parts (appearing scared enough, wilful enough, and struggling with their own relationships and secrets when needs be), and the same can be said for the majority of the terrorists/hospital staff also.
One or two members of the outlaying supporting cast let the side down somewhat in terms of acting talent (including a questionable female terrorist), though the same can be said of just about any TV show not airing on HBO. And while the action may not be quite a clean and polished as we’re used to (being spoiled with the ridiculously high production values given to US television shows), it’s not only a small factor, but something which is truly outshined by the fantastic story behind Hostages; a TV event which is a thrilling as it is tense.
Once more providing us with astounding world television, the Nordic Noir label and Arrow Films have delivered us a perfect piece of some of the best TV from around the world. It’s great to see shows such as Hostages breaking out in the UK, and airing on BBC Four (as only a few years ago this would’ve been difficult to imagine), and as Hostages is not only well acted, clever, and extremely well written, it’s a wonderfully uncompromising drama which is tense, engrossing, and consistently shocking, and so deserves to be seen.
If you enjoy thrilling, high-concept, quality television, you can’t go far wrong with Hostages; a brutal and uncompromising show which will take you in, grip you, and not let you go until it’s finished.