Over The Captures' two seasons, writer and director Ben Chanan manages to weave surveillance technologies, human factors and organisational politics, and rivalries into an intriguing and suspenseful thriller with a timely social and political message.
The two seasons of Ben Chanan's The Capture are available on the BBC iPlayer. The series shows that in the age of applied artificial intelligence, we cannot trust our eyes and ears when it comes to electronic media.
The Capture (Season 1) paints a scenario where filmed evidence that appears to be a reliable recording of pictures and audible dialogues is questionable because the synchronisation of sound and images can be put in doubt. Shortly after, the police are following up on images from a surveillance camera transmitted live into a control room. An operator follows the action as it happens. Can such live pictures be manipulated without arousing suspicion or leaving some signs of interference?
People in trusted institutions whose job it is to fight capital crime and people in human rights organisations are tempted down the slippery slope of playing with visual and auditory technologies making it possible to produce indetectable "deep fakes".
To cross the line into breaking the law, we need the motive (which can be laudable), the opportunity (which new technologies may offer), and a story with which we convince ourselves that at least in the specific circumstances we confronted with this is, actually the right thing to do. When it comes to social justice or capital crimes, what if questionable means are the only way you can see to achieve a just outcome? Language is important here, too, and a harmless word like "correction" takes on a peculiar meaning.
In Season 2, deep fakes and face recognition become the subject of government-level political intrigue on an international scale and also involve public broadcasting media. In a plot close to present realities, Britain, as a mid-size power, finds itself caught in US-China rivalry as it needs to choose between a Chinese and a US-produced face recognition system for border control. The basic plot is intriguing and turns the suspense up a notch from Season 1.
Over The Captures' two seasons, writer and director Ben Chanan manages to weave surveillance technologies, human factors and organisational politics, and rivalries into an intriguing and suspenseful thriller with a timely social and political message. However, it is a pity that the script does not sufficiently explore the psychological depth of the characters. Less stereotyping about the countries and television stations from which the good and the bad guys are would have been welcome.
Viewers must pay close attention to follow the plot with its twists and turns, but it is worth it. Supported by an impressive ensemble of actors, Chanan's direction is competent. There are strong performances from Rob Yang, mysterious and charismatic as Chinese company CEO Yan Wanglei; Ron Perelman as CIA Section Chief Frank Napier; Lia Williams, perhaps a tad too restrained, as DSU Gemma Garland. Ginny Holder gives a convincing portrayal of DS/DI Nadia Latif.
Despite a few weaknesses, this is a thought-provoking thriller that invites serious binge-watching.