The Brits have a long tradition of high quality mystery and thriller stories, both in fiction, on the stage, and on television and film, going back to Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle and before. The producers of Kidnap and Ransom continue on with that august tradition, even while giving the genre a unique twist of their own.
Instead of the normal police detective or private investigator, Kidnap and Ransom revolves around the exploits of a team of hostage negotiators, led by the indefatigable Dominic King (Trevor Eve). Along with his business partner Angela (Helen Baxendale) and assistant Carrie (Amara Karan), Dominic eschews involvement with the police, and does his best to get kidnap victims returned to their families unharmed. Though his relationship with his wife Sophie and daughter Tess (Natasha Little and Laura Greenwood) suffers at times because of it, Dominic is fiercely devoted to his job and his clients.
Series 1 and Series 2 are both included in their entirety here, each with three episodes. The show is as much about the personalities and interactions of the hostage negotiation team and their families and clients as it is about procedure and thrills. But there are thrills aplenty. While very much grounded in reality and not the extreme and implausible action of a 24 or Taken, the show still manages to build and maintain a high level of tension while serving up a delightful buffet of twists, double crosses and shootouts. All the characters are presented quite realistically, with the dividing line of good and evil running through every human heart, as Solzhenitsyn says. The "good guys" are often quite flawed, self-centered, and unable to connect emotionally. The "bad guys" are likewise often confused, or desperate, or even simply greedy, yet they're kind and loyal to their family and dedicated to honor. Kidnap and Ransom doesn't deal in black and whites, but it does wrestle with the inherent contradictions and moral ambiguities of hostage negotiation business, and the basic humanity of everyone involved.
Below are episode descriptions, as included on the discs:
Series 1, Episode 1
Series 1, Episode 2
Series 1, Episode 3
Series 2, Episode 1
Series 2, Episode 2
Series 2, Episode 3
Kidnap and Ransom stays within the basic confines of the crime drama, but expands beyond them both stylistically and thematically. It's a refreshing perspective, and is executed quite well. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Trevor Eve leading the way with his conflicted and damaged, but fundamentally good negotiator. John Hannah guest stars and quite easily slips into the villain role. All of the guest stars and small players are workmanlike and reliable, pitching in their bit toward making an exceptional series. There's nary a missed cue or flubbed line to be seen.
Visually, the producers aren't afraid to be a bit stylized, with odd cuts and a constantly moving camera, reminiscent of Tony Scott's look in such films as Man on Fire and Domino. In fact, the show looks much more like a film than a television series, an intentional choice made by the producers and discussed in some of the extra material. The show looks very good, and time and effort was expended to make the visuals as well as the story and performances compelling.
Kidnap and Ransom isn't the typical crime drama, but it is very engaging and often original without being too abstract or impenetrable. It's a taut, exciting thriller of a series, with winning performances and intelligent storylines. Highly recommended.
Interview with Trevor Eve
Introduction by Writher Michael Crompton