Last Night's TV: Inside Men; Confessions from the Underground


"My husband's not a hero," says Kirsty anxiously, as a man in a sinister rubber mask locks her and her daughter into the downstairs loo.

Kirsty is, we assume, an unwilling guarantor for the co-operation of John, manager at a cash-counting depot and a man who can open the doors for a daring raid. And it's true that John doesn't look like any kind of hero at all at the beginning of Tony Basgallop's drama Inside Men. We appear to be in standard heist territory and John is just an unlucky bystander, doing his best to do what he's told. Except, of course, that he's played by Steven Mackintosh, an actor with a fine line in modest men who eventually reveal that they're anything but. When the drama flashes back nine months to a routine day at the plant, our suspicion that he might be some kind of hero is confirmed.

As it turns out, Inside Men isn't a standard heist drama, even though it's the story of the preparation and execution of a robbery. And what lifts it out of the rut is the quality and craftsmanship of Basgallop's script. One example: the audience needs a briefing about what John does at the plant and why it contains so much cash in an economy that is increasingly switching to digital transfer. This is a potentially awkward moment. Just as a bank-robber has to circumvent security devices, a script-writer has to come up with a way to smuggle vital information into a narrative without setting off the alarms. Basgallop uses an adoption agency interviewer as his useful idiot, a solution that simultaneously fills us in and fills out John and Kirsty's personal backstory.

It isn't just that the joinery is neatly done either. Last night's episode was full of little moments of temptation and moral compromise, faceted in intriguing ways. You saw John's disappointment as he offered one of the workers the opportunity to come clean about a £20 note stolen from a damaged currency box, and his determination when she lied and he sacked her. But then John isn't above a bit of sharp practice too. Anxious that a £240 discrepancy is going to blow his chances in a regular managerial competition, he takes the money out of his private account and finds a way to smuggle it into the system. And when an error does come up that he can't afford to patch, he lies to his wife anyway, waving a bottle of whisky at her to imply that he's employee of the month again. "My hero," she says affectionately, a nice echo of an earlier betrayal.

So we know John has his weaknesses. They're not large, but big enough to make him think twice when he catches two other employees working a more substantial scam. And the discovery that he seems to be the only honest man in the building seems to tip some switch in him. When he confronts the thieves, he teeters briefly and then falls with a sentence that characteristically still won't entirely commit: "If you're going to cross that line," he says to them, "at least make it worth it." With three more episodes and several months of story time to go before we're back where we started, there's ample scope for more of that kind of quiet finesse.

Confessions from the Underground, in which actors relay the words of London Underground staff doing a quiet kind of whistleblowing, initially seemed distinctly underpowered. It's busy at rush hour. The signals sometimes break down. The British public can be horrible. So? But then a larger picture began to emerge, of a margin of safety being steadily shaved away for economy's sake. Tube travellers quite like economy when it comes to paying their fares, it's worth remembering, but you still were left with a sense of the fatal catch-22 of early warnings. Until after the accident, nobody takes them seriously.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living