sun 16/06/2024

Red Eye, ITV review - Anglo-Chinese relations tested in junk-food thriller | reviews, news & interviews

Red Eye, ITV review - Anglo-Chinese relations tested in junk-food thriller

Red Eye, ITV review - Anglo-Chinese relations tested in junk-food thriller

Richard Armitage returns in another preposterous potboiler

Flight risk: Richard Armitage as Dr Matthew Nolan, Jing Lusi as Hana Li

Aircraft hijacking is a ghoulishly popular theme in films and TV, but Red Eye brings a slightly different twist to the perils of air travel. This time, North China Air’s Flight 357, from London to Beijing, hasn’t been hijacked, but it has become the scene of a string of inexplicable murders, carried out by unknown assassin(s) as it cruises at 40,000 feet.

At the centre of the drama is Dr Matthew Nolan (Richard Armitage), a vascular surgeon who has been attending a medical conference in Beijing. However, the usual litany of talks, meet-and-greets and 47-course meals is rudely interrupted by Nolan’s encounter with a woman called Shen Zhao (Elaine Tan), who jumps into his car and asks him to drive her to the Heilong nightclub. “My father is a man of great influence,” she confides. If the doc had any delusions about this being his lucky night, these were dispelled after he got drugged, beaten up, passed out and crashed the vehicle.

Somehow he got himself back to his hotel and caught his flight home, only to be hauled over the coals at Heathrow by a bunch of surly security officers. Ms Zhao has been found dead, and Nolan is a prime suspect. The Chinese demand that he be returned to China, and without even being allowed to go home and grab a clean pair of socks, he finds himself, ignominiously handcuffed, heading back east aboard Beijing-bound Flight 357, along with several of his medical colleagues who’ll act as witnesses.Red Eye, ITVWriter Peter A Dowling has given his twisty and frequently daft thriller/conspiracy plot a splash of contemporary relevance by setting it against a backdrop of sensitive Anglo-Chinese relations. The Brits have signed up to a partnership to allow the Chinese to build nuclear power stations in the UK, a controversial move since it’s well known that deals of this nature are liable to be a trojan horse for all kinds of clandestine Chinese skulduggery. Symptoms may include wholesale theft of intellectual property and the infiltration of spyware into critical systems (see Huawei for further details). Quite why the Brits think this is such a great idea isn’t clear (other than that the Chinese have loads of money), and the Americans are making no secret of their opposition to the arrangement.

All of which means that Dr Nolan’s troubles are merely one fragment of a much wider picture. Accompanying him on the flight is the quick-thinking police detective Hana Li (Jing Lusi), though the subplot about her sister Jess (Jemma Moore) trying to become an intrepid investigative reporter is farcical. Also trying to unpick the threads is MI5 boss Madeline Delaney (Lesley Sharp, giving the impression she’s having to try very hard to take any of this seriously), who, in between nursing her invalid husband, is having a relationship with the CIA’s smarmy London chief Mike Maxwell (Mido Hamada). Madeline’s suspicions that somebody, somewhere doesn’t want her to dig too deeply into all this are intensified when the Home Office plants the creepy, vampire-like John Tennant (Jonathan Aris) to keep an eye on her.

The longer it goes on, the sillier Red Eye gets. Scenes of a mysterious hooded figure hiding in the subterranean passageways of an airliner look like extracts from an Assassin’s Creed computer game, while the way the aircraft’s passengers merely sit placidly with their in-flight meals while the tally of mutilated corpses mounts up is, at best, counter-intuitive. At least Dr Nolan gets to say medical things like “he needs glyceryl trinitrates”, though it seems a shame that Richard Armitage has gone from portraying the broody Lucas North in Spooks to stuff like this and a string of Harlen Coben potboilers for Netflix. But if you crave junk-food TV, disengage brain and tuck in.

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