Hhey – do you like hallways? How about frantic whispered conversations? Or cell phones? If you like any of them – and if you like them all, hold on to your hat right now – then the BBC has a treat for you! It’s called Crossfire (BBC One), and it doesn’t understand anything else. About 306 adults (a conservative estimate) and their 854 children set off together for a dream vacation in a big hotel in a big resort with pool, sun and everything.
At first things look promising for the viewer as one of the couple is Keeley Hawes (as Jo) and Lee Ingleby (as Jason) – who are good actors who wouldn’t choose to appear in anything that is going to be 100 Hallways, frantic whispered conversations, and cell phones — and also because Jo’s busy sexting someone who’s definitely not the petulant baby Jason man. Hooray, do you think. Sexual tension, mind games and psychological wotsits are sure to abound. What a day!
Then a group of masked men started shooting people in the pool. Everyone rushes to the presumed safety of the hotel, except for the extras who get killed and a few protagonists who temporarily cower behind the walls for further jeopardizing the narrative. The action too, you think. But you think wrong. The rest are just people running through the hotel corridors to more or less safe places. Whenever they find shelter – under a table with a long tablecloth, or in a kitchen, or between piles of pool equipment – they pull out their phones and call each other.
“Where are you?” someone will say.
“I died because you phoned me when my life depended on remaining silently hidden”, do not say enough. Or, more often: “I’m under a table/in the kitchen/between piles of pool equipment and still too vulnerable to have this frantically whispered conversation.” I will now run along a corridor, towards a more or less safe place.
“Be careful,” the caller will say.
“Oh, yeah, good idea, I never thought of that,” the other says not, with commendable restraint.
But maybe they shouldn’t be so sarcastic because despite the fact that the hotel looks slightly bigger than King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and must contain over 3 million miles of hallway and a kabillion around corners, there’s a masked gunman lurking from just about everyone.
Luckily, Jason is in their hotel room without a shooter when Jo calls him and asks if the kids are with him. They are not. “See if they called my phone!” she says, because she left him on the side when she heard the gunshots 20 long, long minutes ago and because she doesn’t remember he’s drunk to the cyber- gills of sexy texts and selfies for – well, I won’t say it, because you’ll need all the suspense you can get if you made it this far in episode one. Jason goes into deep petulance mode, which is the best thing to do if you’re trapped in a hotel with marauding murderers roaming every passage for reasons you already suspect aren’t believable.
Eventually, the head of security joins forces with Jo and is pleased to find that she is a trained police officer during the time Hawes was on duty. He’s got an office full of guns, he said, just down these 80 hallways here. They squat at a trot.
Meanwhile – oh my God, I don’t know, and I don’t care. Everyone hides and trembles. Their breath, as Eric Morecambe would say, comes in shorts. A couple-man escaped with other vacationers and two of the children, but stupidly lose the stupid brats helping a stupid woman on a stupid stony path. There is – of course – a live pneumothorax in the kitchen and one of the couple’s wives, who is a doctor, has to sort it out with an egg beater and a mixed grill.
Sometimes there are flashbacks, not in the hallways but still very boring. They tend to show how friends ended up together at the station. Each episode is completed by Jo reflecting in voiceover on the nature of time, traumatic events, fate and free will. It makes you want to go back to the corridors.
If you suffer from tension pneumothorax yourself and can’t reach the remote, or if you’re a big fan of the game Who’s Marked Next For Death?, this is an OK watch. For the rest of us, there’s plenty of other things to do, I bet.