When you want intensity, Christopher Eccleston is your man.
Whether as Doctor Who‘s Time Lord or HBO’s The Leftovers, he turns on the frown and the introspection, with a touch of action. All of which he brings to ITV’s new thriller miniseries Safe House.
This time he plays former police officer Robert, who runs a guest house in the idyllic Lake District with his wife Katy (Marsha Thomason). It’s a leisurely, isolated lifestyle involving little more than swimming the lake and admiring the expansive scenery -but perfect for him to recover after a dark turn in which a woman he was protecting was shot and killed. Despite Katy’s best efforts, Robert has never quite come to terms with his flaws.
So when his former colleague DCI Mark Maxwell (Paterson Joseph) asks him to harbour a family into hiding, he agrees.
The family was enjoying an outing at a Blackpool fair when the youngest son Joe (Max True) was the victim of an attempted kidnapping. When father David (Jason Merrells) gave chase he was assaulted by the perpetrator whilst a bystander who interceder was knifed.
Now the family, including mother Ali (Nicola Stephenson) and teen daughter Louisa (Harriet Cains), are seconded into Robert and Katy’s protection while the police investigate the crime.
But an estranged son Sam (James Burrows), who has been missing from university, may hold further clues to the incident.
It’s an awkward merging of two families under the one roof but each has a need for the other, with Robert attempting to navigate a path that will resolve his guilt from a former case (flashbacks indicate that won’t come easy). The longer the family remains in his care the more his detective skills come into play. In this brooding and sleuthing role, Eccleston makes for convincing casting.
Despite the lingering scenic shots, and the moody tone by director Marc Evans (Hinterland, Collision) this is also something of a slowburn, which is not ideal for a four part miniseries. On top-notch dramas like The Missing and The Fall that investment is paid off in twists and turns, but I would have liked more plot moves across the 2 instalments I viewed.
Nevertheless writer Michael Crompton (Code of A Killer, Kidnap & Ransom, Silent Witness) sets up an engaging dynamic in which to explore secrets and redemption.
Safe House premieres 8:30pm Wednesday on BBC First.