Five Days is a missing-person police procedural with an interesting story structure. Instead of having the investigation be either rapidly concluded, say at the end five consecutive days, or highly compressed, say five hour-long episodes comprising an indeterminate number of days, the miniseries focuses on five particular days during a 12-week investigation.
The first episode, "Day 1", begins with a series of events that transform an ordinary Saturday in southeastern England into the first day of a front-page police investigation. An attractive middle-aged woman, Leanne, accompanied by her two young children, stops her car along a busy freeway to buy flowers from a roadside vendor. Mere feet away from her children, the woman vanishes, and the flower seller hurriedly packs up and leaves. Abandoned, seven-year-old Ethan leads his four-year-old sister Rose off along a secluded path.
Within hours a major investigation is launched to find Leanne and the children. The viewer, selectively privy to more than any particular character, knows what the police can only suspect: the children have been abducted. Neither the police, nor the viewer, yet knows what has become of Leanne.
All of the significant characters needed to resolve the abduction of the children and the whereabouts of Leanne are introduced or at least referenced before the end of the first episode. Day 1 ends with Ethan being found dirty, frightened and alone.
The subsequent episodes cover days 3, 28, 33, and 79. Matt (David Oyelowo) is the hub about which the investigation turns, and questions are quickly raised about his culpability. Did he purposefully lose his cell phone the day Leanne disappeared? Was he cheating on her? Did she intend to leave him? The probing of these questions, and subsequent revelations prompt shifting allegiances, suspicions, and incriminations within the extended circle around Matt.
Five Days keeps the investigation moving forward with various twists and turns, but the miniseries is much more focused on the human drama than it is the mystery. In fact, a viewer sufficiently knowledgeable about the standard conventions used by mystery writers can stay well ahead of the police and finger the guilty by the end of Day 28. The additional 51 days spent waiting for the police to catch up allow the viewer to watch Leanne's family repeatedly fall apart and reassemble in various ways running through a range of emotions most of which end or begin with despair.
This BBC-HBO coproduced miniseries is spread across two discs. Subtitles are available in English or Spanish, and are appropriately sized, paced, and placed.
The original 1.78:1 aspect ratio is preserved and is enhanced for widescreen. Interlacing of the image is apparent, especially when the image is paused, but is not overly distracting.
Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Both options sound perfectly adequate with no noticeable dropouts or distortions.
The only extra provided is a 13-minute behind the scenes segment with series writer Gwyneth Hughes which is interesting as far as it goes: Hughes, the daughter of a cop, is a former journalist and filmmaker who did a documentary on missing women. Hughes claims to have completed the first episode without knowing how the series would wrap up.
Whether one enjoys Five Days turns largely upon how much one enjoys the personal drama. Viewers who long to wade into the messy melodrama that a prolonged abduction investigation can engender will love this. However, those viewers who prefer clean, cold, and clever police procedurals should look elsewhere.