Five Days is something of an ambitious, elegant riff upon the seemingly dozens and dozens of police procedurals that fill the TV schedules on both sides of the Atlantic. A co-production between HBO and BBC, two bastions of high-minded programming, this five-part miniseries effectively takes a routine missing persons case, explodes it into many fragments and devotes time to carefully examining all of the many, varied pieces that go into modern crime sagas, particularly in this deeply cynical Internet age.
Viewing this miniseries, particularly in light of the harrowing (and real-life) Madeleine McCann episode, is at once fascinating and troubling; Five Days is largely the product of writer Gwyneth Hughes, whose ability to deftly juggle a daunting number of storylines makes this enterprise far less clumsy than it might've been in less confident hands. By fracturing the traditional timeline to which aficionados of crime dramas are accustomed, Hughes is able to burrow into the characters and truly unearth what makes them tick. The viewer is dropped into the first day, as Leanne Wellings (Christine Tremarco) stops to buy some flowers from a roadside vendor, as her children Ethan (Lee Massey) and Rosie (Tyler Anthony) wait in the car. Suddenly, Leanne vanishes -- leaving her children to walk home, alone and scared.
From there, their father Matt (David Oyelowo) learns what's happened and immediately, the wheels start turning and the police become involved. While revealing more would likely take up pages and pages, it's best that the viewer come to each twist and development fresh. Much of Five Days's power stems from its unwillingness to take the easy way out, often leaving the unpleasant sensation of unresolved reality. The series then moves ahead to the third day, the 28th day, the 33rd day and the 79th day, adding layers of complexity, intensity and urgency with each new episode.
Taken together, it makes for frankly dazzling television, the kind of nimbly mounted and superbly executed program that American audiences just wouldn't sit still for on a regular basis. It's a shame, particularly since Five Days makes plenty of barbed points about not only the media, but the nature of police work in the modern tabloid era, along with the strength of blended families, the addictive nature of fame and the maddening ease with which evil happens in our world. It's a chaotic, often poignant mix and one which Five Days throws into sharp relief.
While it seems that Five Days was more or less overlooked when it was broadcast on HBO at the end of 2007, perhaps a release on DVD (where viewers can pace themselves through these five, roughly hour-long episodes) will afford this brave, challenging work the audience it deserves. A series every bit as potent as 24, but without peddling to the lowest common denominator, Five Days will get both your mind and your heart racing.
Presented as originally broadcast, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks darn near immaculate, befitting a recently filmed project. There's no print damage to speak of and the crisp, vivid images fairly pop off the screen. At points, there's a hint of grain, but that's typically only during slow-motion sequences. A very solid image.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track has plenty to do, since the filmmakers' aim to present as realistic an experience as possible -- so there's lots of overlapping dialogue, sound effects and score to contend with, but it's all handled with no muss and no fuss, rendering the often heavily accented dialogue with ease. An optional Spanish Dolby 2.0 stereo track is included and for those who have trouble parsing the British accents, optional English and Spanish subtitles are available.
Unfortunately, the supplements are a bit thin on this two-disc set -- only a 13 minute featurette with writer Hughes, who details her background, along with thoughts on the project's genesis, is found on the second disc.
While it seems that Five Days was more or less overlooked when it was broadcast on HBO at the end of 2007, perhaps a release on DVD (where viewers can pace themselves through these five, roughly hour-long episodes) will afford this brave, challenging work the audience it deserves. A series every bit as potent as 24, but without peddling to the lowest common denominator, Five Days will get both your mind and your heart racing. Highly recommended.