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Peacock’s ‘The Capture’ is a Compelling Mystery

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Peacock's The Capture Review

The Capture is easily the most promising series yet from Peacock

The new streaming service Peacock’s original offerings at launch lean heavily towards the British, including Brave New World (based on a British novel, and produced in conjunction with Sky One), and the execrable David Schwimmer sitcom Intelligence, which has Schwimmer’s brusque American agent clashing with an office full of British government personnel. 

Another is The Capture, a mystery series that actually aired in Britain first, having debuted on BBC One back in the fall of 2019. The show is a compelling mystery that’s considerably better than the other two Peacock shows, although it’s not quite at the level that it’s likely to breakthrough. 

The show, written and directed by Ben Chanan, runs for six episodes, all of which are available on Peacock now. The show combines the look and feel of contemporary British crime procedurals, such as The Bodyguard, with the sort of deep analysis of moving image capture familiar from Antonioni’s Blow-Up and its various descendants in the ’70s and ’80s, including The Conversation and Blow Out

The Capture begins with Sean Emery (Callum Turner), accused of war crimes committed in Afghanistan when sophisticated video analysis in court clears him. But once he’s cleared, Sean is soon accused of another crime, also with video surveillance playing a role. Questions are raised, however, about whether the images are what they appear to be. 

The other protagonist is Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger), a young detective who tries to solve the mystery. Also on board are the great character actor Ralph Ineson, as well as Laura Haddock and Ben Miles, while familiar faces like Ron Perlman and Famke Janssen pop up later on. 

Turner, the English actor best known to American audiences as in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as well as this year’s “Emma.” and his lead role in the terrible 2017 movie The Only Living Boy in New York, but he’s much better here, while the actress, with the wonderfully English name of Holliday Grainger, shows star potential in the other main role. 

Surveillance, as you may have noticed from the news in recent months, is absolutely everywhere, in the U.S., Britain, and many other places. There are security cameras covering huge swatches of most major cities, inside most businesses, and even, thanks to the Ring camera, on the outside and sometimes the inside of people’s homes. 

The Capture‘s treatment of this state of affairs is probably the best and most intriguing thing about it, which takes a marked contrast to the way most American crime shows treat the power of the surveillance state- by celebrating and demonstrating it unapologetically. 

One doesn’t get the sense that pushing its original shows is a major part of what Peacock is betting on, at least in the early going. They’ve barely been featured in the advertising, and none of them are going to land nearly the eyeballs of, say, re-runs of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. But of the new shows we’ve seen, The Capture is easily the most promising. 

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

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