Empty8-9 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 2-30
The miniseries genre might have fallen on hard times here in America, but it has never really gone out of style in the U.K. Case in point is this extraordinary, wrenching mystery co-produced by HBO Films and the BBC that ropes you in and refuses to let go. And what's even less fair is that "Five Days" is spread out over the course of five Tuesdays throughout October, one agonizing hour at a time.
The fact that this is shot in southeast England and everyone has a British accent makes the HBO original no less immediate and relatable, with the tables turning and the subplots growing more deliciously convoluted with each passing installment. All of that, plus it boasts a brilliant cast including the likes of Oscar nominee Janet McTeer and "The Equalizer" star Edward Woodward to boot.
What's particularly intriguing about "Five Days" is the stylistic conceit itself. It doesn't merely cover five consecutive days in the lives of people (a la, say, "7 Days in May") but builds to a fever pitch in tracing the ripple effects of a three-month investigation involving a young woman's abduction.
The fictitious event is shown unfolding on Days 1, 3, 28, 33 and 79 of a case that grows into a media sensation, and we see how things impact her family, the police and the public at large on this series of seemingly random days that really aren't all that random. In fact, each of the five hours depicts a watershed day in the investigation and its resultant fallout, and the writing (from Gwyneth Hughes) is both brilliantly concise and impressively consistent.
The story starts off seemingly straightforward. A beautiful young wife and mother (Christine Tremarco) living in Hertfordshire outside of London is suddenly abducted while purchasing flowers from a stand man selling them beside the highway. Her two young children and a just-adopted dog are waiting in the car not 30 feet from where she's making the buy. Just then, a truck comes along and blocks everyone's view -- and when the truck pulls away, the woman isn't there. The frightened kids set off with the dog to find her but wind up also missing.
From nearly the first moment of the disappearance, the events start into motion, and her husband (David Oyelowo) is himself not above suspicion. In fact, nobody really is. Things are simply too weird to hold any theory out as preposterous.
As the days pile up in "Five Days," so do the questions, beginning with what someone would want with this seemingly mild-mannered young mother. And if he wasn't involved himself, how could the man selling flowers not have seen what was happening and instead act as if nothing had happened?
It becomes clear that nobody here is all that they seem. Not the grieving husband or the investigating detective (Hugh Bonneville) or the cynical sergeant (McTeer) or even the abducted woman's parents (Penelope Wilton and Patrick Malahide). This mini holds you in its thrall from beginning to end, and the twists along the way are seemingly endless. A riveting ride, indeed.
HBO Films in association with the BBC
Executive producers: Simon Curtis, Hilary Salmon
Producer: Paul Rutman
Teleplay: Gwyneth Hughes
Directors: Otto Bathurst, Simon Curtis
Director of photography: Florian Hoffmeister
Production designer: John Stevenson
Costume designer: Lorna Marie Mugan
Film editor: Sarah Brewerton
Music: Magnue Fiennes
Sound: Rudi Buckle
Casting: Suzanne Crowley, Gilly Poole
Matt Willings: David Oyelowo
Leann Wellings: Christine Tremarco
PC Simone Farnes: Nikki Amuka-Bird
DSI Barclay: Hugh Bonneville
DS Amy Foster: Janet McTeer
DC Stephen Beam: Charlie Creed-Miles
Mic Danes: Phil Davis
Tanya Wellings: Lucinda Dryzek
Rosie Wellings: Tyler Anthony
Ethan Wellings: Lee Massey
John Poole: Patrick Malahide
Sarah Wheeler: Sarah Smart
Barbara Poole: Penelope Wilton
Kyle Betts: Rory Kinnear
Vic Marsham: Edward Woodward