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The Capture. Photo/Supplied

The Capture shows what happens when fake news gets real

For all the menace that falsifying events represents, there is also its entertainment potential to explore.

Perhaps even five years ago, a thriller like The Capture (TVNZ OnDemand) might have seemed ridiculous. Like those latex face masks in Mission: Impossible, video technology was too clunky to fool anyone.

But the era of fake news is upon us: real fake news, that is, not just accusations thrown around by politicians when they don’t like a story. False reports on social media, conspiracy theories on imageboards, hoaxes on bulletin boards and fake identities created by trolls. Plus, the increasing sophistication of visual effects.

That was the starting point for the series, says writer Ben Chanan, who has previously concerned himself with the online world as co-writer of the 2015 film Cyberbully. During his research into counter-terrorism, it became clear that video evidence is central to securing convictions.

“At the same time, I was increasingly aware of how much better and faster visual effects were becoming,” Chanan says on the BBC’s website, “and how it was possible to manipulate video. Those two worlds were colliding, and wouldn’t that make an interesting world for a drama?”

The six-part series centres on Holliday Grainger’s DI Rachel Carey, a fast-tracked smartie who has been seconded to homicide from counter-terrorism. She’s the golden girl who spotted a vital piece of CCTV evidence that sent down a group of would-be terrorists for a long time.

Her world is about to collide with Lance Corporal Shaun Emery (Callum Turner), a soldier who is acquitted of killing an unarmed Afghani in Helmand on the basis of, ironically, faulty video evidence. But on the night of his release, he is captured on CCTV assaulting and kidnapping his barrister (Laura Haddock).

But all is not as it seems, and the story then takes the pair deep into shadowy UK and US government operations. Chanan, who also directed the series, says he was influenced by conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s such as The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor, but also by the 2003 series State of Play. “The plot is defined by what the characters have to go through.”

Much is made of the heavy use of CCTV surveillance in the UK and The Capture presents “a worst-case scenario, albeit one that reflects real fears and concerns,” Chanan told the Guardian.

“My hope is that The Capture reflects that paranoia, asks some interesting questions about it and is also an entertaining character-driven ride along the way.”

This article was first published in the November 2, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.