Crash dive

Clive Owen's high-flying yuppie falls from grace after a hit-and- run accident in a new BBC drama, `Split Second'

There is something deliciously satisfying about yuppie nightmare films. We all relish the Schadenfreude of seeing these self-styled "masters of the universe" get their comeuppance. Think of Bonfire of the Vanities, Something Wild or After Hours. Now there is a new addition to the genre. In BBC1's Split Second, we can again enjoy the frisson of witnessing the downfall of a hubristic yuppie.

In this piece, directed by David Blair, Clive Owen plays Michael Anderson, an Edinburgh legal executive who is forever closing major deals and acting the corporate big cheese. His world begins to implode, however, when he is driving home after a high-pressure day. Embroiled in a pointless road- rage incident with a weaving cyclist, Michael fatally knocks him off his bike on a deserted stretch of road. Terrified, he leaves the scene of the crime without reporting it. From that moment on, his life of cosy suburban respectability unravels.

As dark, stress-induced rings appear under his eyes, he is haunted by flashbacks to the incident, and begins to behave erratically towards his wife (Helen McCrory) and children. He can no longer take the unrelenting pressure of his job. "This is all I do, day after day, just to stop the whole thing falling apart," he shouts with increasing desperation.

Owen, who is best known for such provocative work as the incest drama Close My Eyes, Bent, about gay love in a concentration camp, and Closer, Patrick Marber's tough play about relationships, is well cast as the tortured yuppie. According to Kate Swan, the producer of Split Second, "he has great vulnerability and sensitivity in his eyes and his body language. He perfectly captures Michael's inner turmoil. Split Second is a deeply sensitive portrayal of a man, which is rare."

Tony Curran, who plays a fellow legal eagle, chips in: "With Clive, the eyes are the window of the soul. They tell a hell of a lot of the story."

In everything he has done - including the popular dramas Chancer, Sharman and An Evening with Gary Lineker - Owen has had the ability to say a lot without words. This is underlined in his next project, Second Sight, a Paula Milne drama for BBC1, in which he plays a detective battling against failing eye-sight. "Unnecessary lines can ruin things," he says. "Often characters will say something that exposes what they're like, and I'll say `I don't need to voice that. I'm doing it for two hours'. Montgomery Clift used to strip out his own lines - `out, out, out, we don't need that'. Less is more."

During his research for the role in Split Second, Owen didn't envy the corporate life he observed. "I went round this huge insurance office, and the most extraordinary thing was the smokers' `cage', a sectioned- off part of the underground car park, which had 20 people literally caged in, puffing away. It looked totally humiliating. Thank God I live in a totally different world. I could never have worked in an office."

Sipping tea in the lounge of an upmarket central London hotel, Owen reckons that James Mavor's script for Split Second really brings out that sense of a faceless corporation grinding down its employees. "It's to do with the lack of personability at these organisations," he says. "You don't engage with anyone there. Everything in corporate life is about finance, so it just becomes one big machine. People have different tags around their necks that can let them into a building or buy them a cup of coffee at the machine. All that can start to get a person down."

Swan hopes the film will not only appeal to those who long to see yuppies brought down, though. "Split Second is an everyman tale. What happens to Michael Anderson could happen to any of us. How do we know that we would do the right thing and report an accident when there are no witnesses? It is the dark side of us all. Each one of us every day runs the risk of being Michael Anderson."

Or, as Martin Amis once put it: "Man's greatest ambition is to get through life without killing another man - as soon as you step into a car, you take that risk."

`Split Second' is on BBC1 at 9.30pm on Thur

James Rampton

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn