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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey


How to sum up Crossfire (BBC One), except as Die Hard sponsored by Jet2 Holidays? It is a boxset thriller in which Keeley Hawes - the Bruce Willis in this scenario, wearing white shorts in place of a dirty white vest - takes on some terrorists who have launched an attack on her hotel in the Canary Islands. It is awful to watch, for two main reasons.

Reason one: this is horrible, stressful television. The terrorists storm the pool at this family resort and begin murdering people. Terrified, panicking children scream for their parents. Terrified, panicking parents scream for their children. Bodies fall around them. Why would you want to watch this? It is clearly inspired by the attack on a hotel in Tunisia in 2015, which left 38 people dead, and the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which claimed 166 victims. This is the world of television, where even the grimmest events prompt people to think: “Could this win me a Bafta?”

It is nightmarish. One of the characters is a teenager, who spends much of episode one cowering from the killers between some sun loungers. She sees someone gunned down in front of her. She leaves a desperate, sobbing voicemail for her father: “There are men with guns, they’re shooting everyone… I love you, Dad.”

Three young boys cower from the killers in the basement. Some guests make it to the kitchens, where the chefs barricade the doors with trolleys and sacks of potatoes. In blind fear, a man tries to make his escape over the balcony when a gunman moves to the hotel bedrooms, only to fall several storeys onto the concrete below.

On top of this, the plot requires some of the characters to do very silly things. Ben (Daniel Ryan) is tasked with leading his friends’ children to safety. Inexplicably, he packs them off on their own while he helps a woman who is dithering about climbing over a rock, and promptly loses them.

Which brings us to reason two for Crossfire being a misfire: the characters, who are trapped in a drippy soap opera. The terror attack often takes a backseat to the domestic drama of Jo (Keeley Hawes) having an affair with Chinar (Vikash Bhai), a married dad in this tight-knit friendship group. When her husband, Jason (Lee Ingleby), discovers incriminating text messages, he’s more bothered by that than the fact he’s in the middle of a major terrorist incident and his children might be dead.

Throughout, there is a voiceover from Hawes about the meaning of life, and flashbacks to a bit of extramarital flirting. I don’t want to ruin the ending for you, but after a couple of hours of gun-toting Jo heroically running an evacuation operation (she used to be a cop, you see), the terrorism is done and dusted by the beginning of episode three, and we’re back in Britain where Chinar’s wife finds out about the flirting and gets slightly cross about it.

As for the terrorists? The writer, novelist Louise Doughty, has dodged any tricky religious subject matter and given them more prosaic reasons for the attack. There are only two of them, and the main one featured (played by Pol Sanuy) is a doe-eyed naïf who is happy to gun people down indiscriminately while off-camera, but can’t bear to shoot people who look him in the eye. This means that, after the initial horror, the tension disappears as we’re just left with holidaymakers roaming the hotel with very little chance of getting hurt.

Does Crossfire have anything going for it? Well, the supporting cast is good, particularly Josette Simon as Miriam the GP. But that’s about it.

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