Hostages, C4, with Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott, Tate Donovan PREVIEW

Hostages: Toni Collette, Mateus Ward, Tate Donovan, Quinn Shephard. Channel 4
Under siege – Dr Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) and her family are Hostages. Pic: C4

Rating: ★★★½

C4: starts Saturday, 11 January, 9pm

Story: Ellen Sanders is a top surgeon in Washington, DC, chosen by the President to treat him. But Ellen’s life takes a horrifying turn when masked men invade her home and take her husband and two children hostage, threatening to harm them unless she kills the President when she operates on him.

HOSTAGES HAS been tagged the new Homeland in some quarters. But it’s really more like 24.

Hostages: Brian (Tate Donovan) is attacked. Channel 4
Husband Brian forgets to follow the rules

It has the same format, with each of its 15 episodes being devoted to one hour in one traumatic day for surgeon Ellen Sanders, whose family is take hostage to force her to surreptitiously assassinate the President, on whom she is about to operate in hospital.

Hostages also a thriller that, like 24, is less a mirror of contemporary qualms about the war on terror than with some rather far-fetched twists and cliffhangers. Homeland has better, more believable characters; Hostages is about action and pace.

Hostages: Dylan McDermott as Duncan Carlisle. Channel 4
FBI assassin plot (Dylan McDermott)

Hostages has menace and intrigue

But for a Saturday night thrill-fest, Hostages ticks all the boxes. There’s a good element of surveillance menace in the story, with Ellen’s family having clearly been minutely monitored before the hostages takers arrive. ‘We have eyes and ears everywhere,’ says FBI man turned plotter Duncan Carlisle. ‘We have thought of everything.’

There is plenty of intrigue. Who are the hostage takers? Why is there an FBI agent among them? Why do they want to kill the President? Will Ellen give in to their demands? Will she find out her daughter is pregnant?

That’s right – the international crisis is mixed with domestic drama. The nuclear family is something Hostages does have in common with Homeland. Ellen, played by the excellent Toni Collette, is married to Brian (Tate Donovan), and they have two teenage kids, Jake and Morgan, who, being teens, are of course trouble.

Toni Collette as Dr Sanders

Hostages: Toni Collette as Dr Ellen Sanders. Channel 4
Sanders (Toni Collette)

Dylan McDermott as baddie Duncan Carlisle is rugged and intimidating, while Toni Collette, who has put in many fine performances down the years, simply looks alarmed most of the time. Hopefully, ensuing episodes will stretch her a bit more.

It’s a bit formulaic and has too many twists to be really captivating. But Hostages has high production quality and rips along so slickly it is hard not to hang on to see what’s coming next.

Cast: Dylan McDermott Duncan Carlisle, Toni Collette Dr Ellen Sanders, Tate Donovan Brian Sanders, Rhys Coiro Kramer Daly, Sandrine Holt Sandrine Renault, Mateus Ward Jake Sanders, Quinn Shephard Morgan Sanders, Billy Brown Archer Petit, James Naughton President Paul Kincaid, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio Mary Kincaid

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