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It is the middle of the day when Leanne Wellings stops to buy flowers
by the roadside on her way to see her grandfather with her children.
The children are in the car when Leanne goes missing. The kids abandon
the car and search for her and it is many hours before grandfather
Victor calls the police. Later that night Leanne's husband Matt and his
stepdaughter Tanya raise the alarm properly and a missing persons
investigation is launched headed up by DSI Barclay as the family
implodes with hope and worry.
Following on from the success of previous BBC/HBO crossover The State Within, this next joint effort was really pushed by the BBC, which maybe helped it get ratings but perhaps didn't help it when you look at the approach it takes across all five hours. The story is engaging but you do need to understand that it is not a cop thriller but rather a character story that is as much based on the mystery as it is on the emotional and personal impact on all those involved. I say this because I know many viewers were disappointed with this approach and I think it may have been because they assumed that the hype meant it would blow everyone away. And of course it didn't but what it did do was effortlessly draw me into the people and have me caring about everyone involved.
Thus this is one of those dramas where it is not all about the resolution as it is about the overall drama. This is a good thing because the characters are all pretty well written throughout the five selected days and they are convincingly developed or broken as we meet them each time. This worked really well for me and the cast respond well to it. Some have seemingly stock characters with things going on outside this story while others are right in the middle of the pain and loss. Oyelowo turns in yet another strong performance as the husband and his emotional range in the character is impressive, but he is far from being the whole show. Wilton and Malahide both work well together as the parents. I didn't totally think Smart made her character work and, as much as I like Amuka-Bird as an actress, I'm not sure it helped anyone to have her walking round constantly with an air of surrogate grief. Bonneville is solid while Bonnard, McTeer and others are strong. The child performances are mostly good although Dryzek is the strongest of the three and stands up very well alongside the adult cast. Woodward is good but not given as much to do as I would have hoped.
The downside of this approach though is that the actual story of the crime and the investigation is not as good as it perhaps should have been. Too often things rely on coincidence to move the case forward and I didn't like the way that many things happened while the characters are all within spitting distance of it I appreciate the town is supposed to be small but not that small! The conclusion to the disappearances may also bug some viewers because it is in keeping with the way that it unfolded and, in my opinion, not that satisfying or convincing.
Overall then a very good character drama that is sadly not quite as good as an investigation. The cast all rise to the material and are roundly good with the script. I'm glad I watched it because I did enjoy it but it is not as perfect as some of the gushing reviews around would suggest.
'Five Days' is billed as something special, a crime drama that consists of a series of episodes, each set on one particular day of a police enquiry. But in fact, this element of the story turns out to be rather less significant than might at first be thought, as the fact that the action in each episode is confined to 24 hours is hardly noticeable, and very little distinguishes the program from countless other crime stories. In fact one almost can't help drawing comparisons to the last 'Prime Suspect', as one of the sub-plots focuses on a single, cynical female cop approaching retirement: and it's not just the absence of Helen Mirren that makes the comparisons unfavourable. There's a lot of earnest over-emoting, manipulative music and a set of characters seemingly contrived so that each one is in some sense sympathetic, in another suspicious. And it's possible to guess the guilty party well before the end, not because of the internal dynamic of the story, but rather because of the construction of the drama as a whole: certain things must be true, to justify the way that the series focuses on certain characters at certain times. In spite of these failings, the series grew on me: by the end, I was quite gripped. But it's a sad sign that the BBC, which once made the likes of 'The Singing Detective', boasted of this of "possibly the best drama of the year": for there's little true originality on offer here, and the claim reveals a lack of ambition that is dreadfully disappointing. 'Five Days' is in fact not rubbish; but it is formulaic, and one would hope that the very best the BBC had to offer would be something a little more innovative and fresh.
A number of posters have commented on the unsatisfactory conclusion.
This is always a problem with long, complex dramas. Crime is
essentially banal, so the pay off is always anti-climactic, whilst
detailed exposition detracts from the human drama. The writer has used
a number of clever devices to try and get round this, but has not been
entirely successful. Answers to precisely what happened and why may
have been supplied, but if so they are well buried. The viewer
inevitably feels a little cheated.
But in a sense this is unimportant. The drama was never about the crime, or even the investigation, it was about the impact of events on the lives of those involved; the family, the investigators, the witnesses, the press. And as such it was gripping. The writing was a significant cut above the run of the mill for prime-time drama, and the performances uniformly good. In an ensemble piece it is invidious to focus on individuals, but Penelope Wilton deserves special mention for an extraordinary tour de force as the mother-wife-daughter, and Janet McTeer was in cracking form as a hard-bitten old cop.
One of the most interesting aspects of the drama is the handling of race, as the elephant in the room that no-one is prepared to mention. Subtle, powerful stuff.
My wife and I have watched the first three episodes in one sitting and am counting the days to the last two. What elevates this above the usual police procedure series, is the way that it examines the crimes through the eyes of all participants. The police, the journalists, the families, the neighbours and the workmates are all examined in detail showing how serious crimes can affect a whole community. The acting is superb, particularly that of the older generation, played by Patrick Malhyde, Penelope Wilton and Edward Woodward. A nice Jane Tennyson type character played by Janet McTeer her boss Hugh Bonneville and Phil Davies as a hardened reporter all contribute to some fine ensemble acting. The stories of the many characters gradually come together in a way that constantly challenges your perceptions of what is going to happen next. Reminiscent of the story-telling style of 'Crash' or 'Short Cuts', this is superior television and should not be missed.
Gripping thriller concerning a mother who disappears from the roadside
after stopping to buy flowers en route to see her wheelchair bound
grandfather (Woodward). Her two small children are left by the
roadside, and themselves become missing persons when they set out to
find their mother. Father (Oyelowo) leads the hunt for his missing
family in the hope that some, if not all, will be found alive before
it's too late.
There's a lot of detail as you'd imagine in such a long mini-series, but the forensic analysis and character development makes for compelling viewing, never laboured and certainly not time-bound. While the cast may be mostly unfamiliar, they each seem to be on the same page narratively, displaying a unique angle from which to elaborate on their perspective of the mystery. Apart from Woodward (whose character is largely extraneous to the plot), only Patrick Malahide, Bernard Hill and Pene Wilton were recognisable, although Sarah Smart leaves an impression as the concerned but somewhat vulnerable nanny with whom Oyelowo becomes involved in a complex, but at times suspicious arrangement.
"Five Days" documents each day in the increasingly desperate hunt for the missing trio, a reflection of the kind of urban mystery that happens from time-to-time in real life. Like most British police shows, there's a highly procedural and forensic method of storytelling with which you'll either be comfortable, or find irritating if you're used to the more exaggerated spectacle of American cop shows. Tense, addictive and highly recommended.
I am on episode 4 and it's like watching a train wreck. The script is non-sensical, the acting is bad, the characters are mostly loathsome and the series of bizarre coincidences (mother of the crazy dude is the nurse for the guy grandfather in the nursing home, reporter finding the girl, dog walker appears in more than one silly plot line, there is a big running race with the annoying reporter as a participant, the race running right along the scene of the lake right when the kids were trying to get a boat ride - I could really go on...) . I checked online to see if there were bad reviews for this thing for my commiseration, but it seems to be getting decent reviews. I am baffled. I weep for humanity if this is considered a good series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I totally got drawn into this and couldn't wait for each episode. The acting brought to life how emotional a missing person in the family must be , together with the effects it would have on those closest. The only problem we as a family had was how quickly it was all 'explained' at the end. We couldn't hear clearly what was said and have no idea what Gary's part in the whole thing was? Why did Kyle phone him and why did he go along with it? Having invested in a series for five hours we felt cheated that only five minutes was kept back for the conclusion. I have asked around and none of my friends who watched it were any the wiser either. Very strange but maybe we missed something crucial ????
I know, I know...this was done in 2007 and 2010 long before the paradigm shift created by True Detective, Mad Men and Breaking Bad came along. The story line had me during episode 1 and then it turned into a soap opera. Do British people really whine that much? "Guess what they found under her nails? Carpet fibers". Are you kidding?? I kept waiting for a climax but all I got was another family member trying to win an award for crying! The grandfather was by far the worst in the crying department. Would Walter be crying into the camera instead of saying "I am the danger!" Eventually it became a parody, a joke, not worth continuing. It was all too cliché. Thank God for HBO.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you don't mind having your emotions toyed with, then you won't mind
this movie. On the other hand, if you enjoy British crime mysteries,
following clues and seeing how they all logically fall into place at
the end, you'll be very disappointed.
Here are some of the logical inconsistencies that lead to that disappointment:
* While the police utilize the CCTV cameras early on to gather clues about the mystery, the huge truck that stopped and blocked the children's view just before her disappearance doesn't get caught on camera. This is a critical piece of the mystery. It's inconsistent to have the car the children were in caught on camera and not the big truck that is so critical to the mystery.
* The movie goes to great lengths to show the sophistication of the equipment in tracking down the children's movements but misses the opportunity to utilize the same sophisticated equipment is tracking down vehicles that may have entered the crime scene from camera-visible locations adjacent to the crime scene as part of developing clues.
* In England, driving is on the left. The director goes out of his way to have the car at the crime scene park on the right, several meters away from the flower kiosk, when it could have easily parked immediately behind, or even on the side; as the huge truck did.
* The police forensics team is so meticulous as to find a discarded cell phone in a sewer drain several miles from the scene of the crime, but can't find any blood evidence from the head injury right at the crime scene, even though they secured the scene just hours after the disappearance and with no intervening rainfall.
* Search dogs were not used at all to find the missing children; this from the country that is well known for developing the hound dog for search and hunting.
* It is illogical that such a highly publicized news story would not turn up the presumably innocent truck driver that stopped at the flower kiosk.
* It is illogical that the mother would go to such extremes and expend so much effort to leave carpet fiber clues under her fingernails for her eventual murder investigators even coaxing her daughter to do the same-- while she simply could not have crawled out of the unguarded mobile home. If she had enough sense about her to ask her daughter to get carpet fibers under her nails, she could of just as easily asked her daughter to call out for help or even leave the mobile home that was in a crowded residential park.
* The suspect that abducted the little girl was portrayed as mentally slow/dimwitted --justifying his unknowingly drowning of the mother but, he was smart enough not to cooperate with the police and also fully exercise his rights not to self-incriminate.
There are more inconsistencies like this that will lead to a true sleuth aficionado's disappointment. 'Five Days' is a very weak British crime story.
One of the finest pieces of television drama of the last decade. Throughout the five hours, ones perceptions and sympathies are constantly challenged as it explores many facets of modern day British society. David Morrisey is, as usual, brilliant. At first coming across as a heavy handed copper in conflict with the heroine, but then proving to be intelligent and caring, as he works with her in uncovering the truth. I have never seen Surrane Jones before. I believe she comes from the world of television soaps. Her performance was magnificent, as she maintains her humour and composure whilst trying to balance the demands of the case and the stress of caring for her mother. I could go on and talk about every member of the cast who contributes to this magnificent drama, but their efforts would mean little without such an absorbing script that constantly challenges your assumptions about any of the characters. It is programmes like this that restore one's faith in television drama, whilst at the same time making it almost impossible to settle for most of the garbage that is increasingly filling the airwaves.
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