Who ya gonna call? Master negotiator Dominic King.
Delving into the world of international kidnappings Kidnap and Ransom: Complete Series 1 & 2 introduces us to the life’s work of Dominic King (Trevor Eve, Waking the Dead), a hostage negotiator who deals primarily with corporate clients. This mini-series shows us two cases. I just wish there had been more, as only the cases themselves receive in-depth treatment. The other aspects of the series feels somewhat whitewashed.
This is a slow burning tale. At first, I only kept watching because of the mysteries inherent in each of the two cases. I didn’t honestly care for the characters until the end of the first series. The second case stood alone. Though it chronologically took place after the events of the original story, I could have watched this first.
Series One deals with Naomi Shaffer (Emma Fielding), a botanist whose abduction raises questions as these first three episodes unfold. She’s taken by amateurs but, at the exchange for her release, she’s abducted by yet another set of kidnappers. When she finally returns home, it seems as though the ordeal has followed her, in more ways than one.
Series Two involves a hostage trade-off gone wrong. When Dominic trades money for hostages in a public market, a young boy sees a kidnapper’s gun. He runs away to find a police officer who arrives in record time and opens fire. In the ensuing bedlam, one of the kidnappers (Madhur Mittal, Slumdog Millionaire) takes a hostage and commandeers a tour bus. Now he’s also got a busload of international tourists, and the local police aren’t about to let Dominic’s team negotiate.
If I reveal any more, I’ll completely spoil the show.
There’s a certain detachment present when watching these six episodes. At one point, Dominic wonders if his wife’s request for him to stay out of the field would have even arisen, if his last mission hadn’t ended in a hostage’s death. She says that’s an unfair thing to ask. Why? I didn’t know anything about their relationship, aside from what the two of them just shared with each other. Are we the audience supposed to read into things without knowing the language?
A similar instance involves the relationship between King and his partner Angela (Helen Baxendale, Friends.) She was clearly the one who dealt with the business side of things, but I suspect we were supposed to find their relationship more adversarial than I did. The same questions could be raised about most of the characters and their relationships. Instead of trying to get us to root for Dominic based on who he is as a character, the creative team believes we should root for him because he’s the good guy. That freed them up to focus on the intricacies of the stories being told.
Kidnap and Ransom has so many things that could be mined out further. We saw mere glimpses of the characters’ lives and of the complex dance performed each time a negotiation occurs. It’s not as though the cases were uninteresting or the characters dull. The more I learned about this world, the more compelling I found it. But these six episodes feel more like a best-of compilation of an existing show, than a complete mini-series. While I enjoyed what was offered, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with the skimming of both the subject matter and the characters involved.
Kidnap and Ransom was shot on location, which lends authenticity to the show. However, as you might expect, the nicest parts of each location were not highlighted. The standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image exhibits a guerilla feel, its hand-held aesthetic matching the washed-out palette. There were definite lighting cues which helped separate the various locations, and I especially enjoyed the way the hostages were lit in their captivity. I could see the isolation and feel claustrophobic vibe they were going for. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track could have been better. The simple audio is used to add an air of realism, but ends up giving off an even stronger sense of detachment. I would have loved a stronger depth of field to immerse me in this world, no matter the artificiality such depth might betray.
Bonus features include an interview with Trevor Eve, and depressing kidnapping statistics. The interview is interesting, but certainly something you can pass over.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced bit of crime with stories that keep you guessing, Kidnap and Ransom: Complete Series 1 & 2 will draw you in. I loved unraveling the whys behind each kidnapping, so in that sense it was fulfilling. But if you’re looking for a show where every aspect grips you, this isn’t it.