|Melissa George as Sam Hunter in Hunted. Pics: BBC|
BBC1: Part 1/8 starts Thursday, 4 October, 9pm
Story: Sam Hunter, an operative for the elite private intelligence and security firm Byzantium, is finishing a mission in Tangier when an attempt on her life leaves her critically injured. Not knowing who tried to kill her, she disappears to a remote location to recover, regroup and retrain.
Hunted is filling the spy slot left on BBC1 by Spooks. And the Beeb has chucked a lot at this to make it work, including writer Frank The X Files Spotnitz, lavish production and a pulsating narrative. Up against the wheezing Spooks, Hunted gets off to a slick and pretty gripping start.
|The heat is on – Sam fights back|
The action kicks off in Tangier with Sam Hunter sleeping with the enemy. This prologue is hectic and has more twists than a whole season of Spooks, with an intricate operation unfolding that involves double-crosses, springing a tortured doctor from captivity, a staged assassination, gun fights and punch-ups.
Happily, the action settles after Sam, played by Melissa George, is shot when she is set up at a remote cafe. Was it her lover, fellow operative Aidan Marsh, who betrayed her, or another colleague?
Scott Handy as the Blank-faced Man
She goes into hiding for a year to recover at her family’s former home in remote Scotland, and we learn about a violent moment in her past, which offers an insight into her odd habit of sleeping curled up in the corner of a room (that’s how she cowered during her terrifying night in childhood).
|Patrick Malahide as Turner|
The intrigue gathers pace when Sam stuns her boss and colleagues at private spy firm Byzantium by turning up for work, intending to uncover the person who betrayed her. Her first assignment is working undercover as a nanny at the home of a nasty piece of work, vicious corporate honcho Jack Turner, played by professional sneerer Patrick Malahide.
It’s a thriller with plenty of layers and heart-stopping moments, as Sam creeps around Turner’s fortress home trying to plant video bugs while Scott Handy plays a scary assassin – the Blank-faced Man – who is targeting Sam, or Turner, or both. Given The X Files‘ record in generating spin around characters such as the Cigarette Smoking Man, this killer could be the show’s first cult figure.
Melissa George – action woman
How does the permanently pouting Melissa George fare (Gillian Anderson had apparently been first option for the part)? The former Home and Away actress can never have appeared in anything as physically taxing at this. She’s not completely convincing when beating up three armed heavies, though she cleverly sets light to one of them, but she is a presence that will quickly win over many viewers – haunted, sympathetic but tough.
|Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Crane|
Where Hunted does succeed in this opener, called Mort, is in adding a bit of emotional heart to all the smash-bang-wallop. It is photographed superbly, and the action – which flits from North Africa to Scotland to London to Istanbul and Amsterdam – won’t let anyone doze off.
Cast: Melissa George Sam Hunter; Adam Rayner Aidan Marsh, Sam’s colleague and love interest; Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje Deacon Crane; Morven Christie Zoe Morgan; Lex Shrapnel Ian Fowkes; Stephen Campbell Moore Stephen Turner; Oscar Kennedy Edward Turner; Tom Beard Bingham; Patrick Malahide Jack Turner; Stephen Dillane Rupert Keel; Scott Handy Black-faced Man; Uriel Emil Hasan Moussa; Dhafer L’Abidine Bernard Faroux; Indira Varma Natalie Thorpe