Empty9-10:30 p.m., Monday, March 19
LONDON -- ITV has spent a lot of money on its three-part conspiracy story "Mobile," about terrorists who target phone companies over their products' alleged connection with cancer. The budget is all on the screen, but it's not clear if it's supposed to be a serious drama, a flat-out thriller or a very black satire. Trying to be all three at once makes things very confusing.
There is so much going on and so many characters are introduced in the first 90-minute episode that, while it's highly entertaining and quite exciting, it's not fully clear what's going on. That, of course, is what conspiracies are all about, but writer John Fay and director Stuart Orme ask viewers to take a great deal on trust as events play out with mysterious, and evidently significant, individuals glimpsed only at the edges.
Having seen the second episode, but not the third, it does start to come clear, but the first segment leaves the audience in the dark. That's not least because several key characters played by familiar faces that are being used to sell the show -- including Keith Allen ("Robin Hood"), Michael Kitchen ("Foyle's War") and Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan 007 films -- are barely seen until the third episode.
Front and center in the opening episode is an unhappy man named Eddie Doig (Neil Fitzmaurice) who learns that he has a brain tumor and has three months to live. He blames the phone company where he was an engineer, and it may be no coincidence that several very serious and violent actions are taking place against mobile phone installations.
Not only that, but also a few unfortunate people have been shot in the head apparently just because they were on the phone. We are introduced to the police team on the trail of what appear to be terrorists, and there are a couple of police sharpshooters, Maurice Stoan (Jamie Draven) and his female partner Stacy Cox (Alex Reid), to keep an eye on.
It develops that Stoan's wife and child were killed by a hit-and-run driver while he was serving in Iraq, but the narrative flips from the police to the ailing Doig who is undergoing hypnotherapy to help his anger issues and may or may not be the lead terrorist.
There are clandestine meetings, whispered conversations and oblique references that all suggest Doig may be perpetrating the outrages but isn't actually responsible. Allen is glimpsed as the owner of the company where Doig worked, and Kitchen is an executive who may have something to do with the death of Stoan's family. It's all very complex.
Some of the domestic scenes are played sensitively, and the action sequences are very well done, but the killings have a darkly comic touch. It may not all come to mean very much and many viewers may decide the confusion isn't worth investing three nights trying to figure it out. But the mystification is fun, and there will be many who will stick around for the denouement.
Granada International is handling international sales of "Mobile."
Executive producer: Kieran Roberts
Producer: Gina Cronk
Screenwriter: John Fay
Director: Stuart Orme
Cinematographer: Tony Coldwell
Production designer: Grant Montgomery
Editor: Eddie Mansell
Costume designer: Sue Igner
Composer: Colin Towns
Maurice Stoan: Jamie Draven
James Corson: Keith Allen
David West: Michael Kitchen
Eddie Doig: Neil Fitzmaurice
Donna Doig: Julie Graham
Steven Doig: Adam McCoy
Keith Doig: Jack Rigby
Paul Stoan: John McArdle
Stacy Cox: Alex Reid
DS John Goddard: Russell Boulter
DI Lorraine Conil: Sunetra Sarker
DI George Fleming: Shaun Dooley
SI Hewitt: Michael L. Jackson
Billy Dunlop: Dave Rooney
Eddie's Dad: Antony Booth
Ray Bould: John Thomson
Rachel West: Samantha Bond
Collete West: Brittany Ashworth
Granddad Maurice Stoan: Peter Vaughan
Brenda Stoan: Eithne Browne
Bobby Dean: Frank Lauder