TV Review: Hijack

There’s lots of talent (and money) at play in Hijack, and Eve Myles is excellent, but it really just doesn’t click

“We cannot stop this plane”

I persevered with Hijack, despite not being entirely enamoured of what the first two episodes was doing and whilst it remains watchable throughout its seven instalments, I’m not sure it was the greatest success. Created by George Kay and Jim Field Smith for Apple TV+, it found itself caught between an Idris Elba vehicle and a genuine ensemble show, a tension that carried on right to the very end with increasing levels of incredulity.

It was also a very po-facedly serious show, which could well have worked, had the plotting remained on course to a similarly serious destination. But the failure to resist making Elba the ‘hero’ and contriving a hugely ridiculous final act (I mean, even *I* could have organised something more effective on the ground with one hand snaffling the drinks trolley). And even with those dodgy decisions aside, something was more fundamentally wrong with the writing and the structure of the show.

Playing out essentially in real time can indeed be effective (qv some series of 24, or maybe just the first?), but as the action constantly cuts from the hijacked plane to air traffic control, Dubai suburbs, a government conference room, a baffling car chase, a pointless house invasion, etc etc, the tension that is built too quickly leaches out with every added plot thread that saps the energy and drains the will to live with their eventual unimportance.

Much as I love Max Beesley, his police offer adds nothing substantive – it’s just that his ex just happens to be big in counter-terrorism and his current fling is Elba’s character’s estranged wife, it is a level of contrived nonsense that just isn’t necessary and ultimately inessential to the plot. There’s much more currency in the debates between Hattie Morahan’s foreign secretary and Neil Stuke’s home secretary about the mechanics of making impossible decisions.

It is hard to warm to Elba’s Sam Nelson , a corporate business negotiator with Luther-sized levels of self-confidence that means he’ll cut off people on the ground trying to help whether they like it or not. And though Neil Maskell impresses as the leader of the hijackers, there’s too many of them for any characters to really emerge and stick in the mind, given the constant cut-aways to other locations. Same too for the passengers, the sheer volume meaning too few of them cut through.

A shame when you’ve got the likes of Rochenda Sandall and Justin Salinger in there, though Holly Aird does get to make a bit of an impact. Ben Miles and Kaisa Hammerlund register more strongly as pilot and first officer, we naturally spend a bit more time with them but best of all is Eve Myles as air traffic controller Alice – a harassed mum outside of working hours but fiercely excellent once the headset is on. If there’s a sequel, then please can it focus on her!

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