Directors: Omri Givon, Rotem Shamir
Screenplay: Nir Bergman, Omri Givon, Amir Gutfreund, Rotem Shamir, Danny Soffer, Gal Zaid
Starring: Ayelet Zurer, Jonah Lotan, Micha Celektar, Dar Zuzofsky, Yoav Rotman
Series Length: 10x 45 minute episodes
When I first read the summary for Israeli mini-series Hostages, I was somewhat sceptical. The plot revolves around surgeon and mother Dr Yael Danon, whose family is taken hostage by four armed strangers the night before she must perform surgery on the Prime Minister of Israel. In order to save her family, Yael must kill the Prime Minister on the operating table. Something about this premise seemed a little too far-fetched to appeal to me- how could this possibly fill a 10-part series- plus, I’ve always been more of a slow-burning drama kind of gal.
Nevertheless, something about it also sparked my interest, and having seen a few of the foreign series recently picked up by UK television channels- The Returned, Gomorra etc, European crime series’ seem to have etched themselves a special place in my heart. Besides, if it was good enough for BBC4, it would probably be good enough for me.
As it turns out, Hostages is a thrilling, tense and genuinely entertaining crime thriller that captured my attention with ease, and managed to remain unpredictable until the end (I am a terrible culprit for trying to predict endings and have ruined many a series for myself).
What was particularly interesting about it and what perhaps separates it from other series’ is a rather minimal amount of characters that are all intricately developed. Instead of repeatedly introducing new characters in order to forward the plot, each character- even those introduced as small bit-parts- comes back to play an important role in plot development. Time in this series is spent not only unveiling adrenaline-fuelled action sequences, but developing each character and giving them a back-story that thickens the plot. This created a dynamic series, bursting at the seams with twists and turns.
Similarly, the number of locations used is also kept to a minimum, alternating predominantly between the family home and the hospital. This, at least for the first half of the series, adds a sense of believability and realism to the plot. Focussing on getting to know each character and examining the shifting inter-character relationships, keeps this series progressive and interesting. It’s a rare pleasure that a series will have characters complex enough to allow a shift in who the audience favour. While the family seem the obvious victims in the situation, each one brings a different perspective to the table and subsequently takes different action. On the other hand, our hostage takers aren’t always as villainous as their role would suggest, and watching these unlikely 8 interact whilst trapped in a house for a number of days is undeniably captivating.
There are many other elements that made this series stand out for me; I was very pleasantly surprised by a lot of the well-planned and imaginative cinematography (something that could have been very repetitive given that most of the action takes place on one set). The score was dramatic, but not distracting. However, like most things Hostages was by no means perfect. It has it’s flaws; the ending -although ensuring loose ends left earlier in the series were all well and truly tied up- seemed to fall into place all-too easily, feeling rushed and leaving me a little lost.
There are also many plot-holes, or rather deeply-frustrating moments in which characters have easy ways out but choose not to take them. A lot of the series therefore, feels like an old ‘don’t open that door’ horror movie cliche. However, a lot of this is excusable because the character development allows you to get carried away whenever the plot went a little awry. I’m a strong believer that good television should be designed to entertain, and entertain me it did.
Hostages is available to purchase on DVD now in the UK.