Last Night's Viewing: Prisoners of War, Sky Arts 1


Anyone watching Prisoners of War because of Homeland, the Showtime series that was notionally based on it, may need to adjust their clocks for a shift in dramatic time zones. In keeping with convention and Hollywood imperatives, the latter began with frantic action.

By contrast, Gideon Raff's Israeli original opts for frantic inaction. There is no dialogue and not much light. A group of people sit in a hotel room waiting for news. A paper is signed and passed out through a guarded door. Then there's another long pause. "What now?" someone asks anxiously. "We wait," replies a colleague. The camera closes in on the thin strip of light at the bottom of the door, as if something there might break the suspense, and eventually you see the shadow of someone outside. The deal has been done and two captive prisoners and one body are on their way home after 17 years.

"We wait" is good advice for anyone watching, because Raff's drama is in no hurry to set its hooks. And what might be a vice by the standards of American primetime television (sometimes all hooks and no line) is definitely a virtue here. So far, at least, Prisoners of War is far less interested in the mechanisms of a thriller plot than the mysteries of human feeling. Such hints of concealed mystery as there have been are subtle. "Do you remember everything we talked about?... May Allah keep you safe," says one of the prisoner's captors as he releases him, hinting at some unspecified compact. But mostly what Raff is concerned with is the wrenching adjustment of those returning and those waiting to greet them. How do you face a husband who remembers you as 17 years younger? And how do you face a partner you've betrayed for his own brother?

That last crux involves an implausibility that may be too large for some to swallow. Nurit, who found that she couldn't keep her promise of fidelity to Uri with no idea when it might be redeemed, is persuaded by the military psychologist to pretend that nothing has happened when he returns. Her husband and child move out, she takes the ring off her finger and – for a couple of days at least – sets out to play the faithful lover. But is such a deception remotely conceivable, even if her marriage hadn't already been the stuff of newspaper headlines? What psychologist would advise adding a second betrayal to the first? What conversation would explain to a son why his mother was suddenly spending the night with a stranger? It's a gaping hole in the drama's bid for emotional realism.

If you can ignore it though, Raff's script is also alert to the ways in which real life might divert from the tabloid clichés of returning heroes and blissful reunions. "How long do you think it will take him to figure out we're completely screwed up?" one prisoner's stroppy daughter asks her brother. The men themselves, meanwhile, swing between happy relief and profound shock. They've come back to a country they don't recognise and they're facing the prospect of a military debriefing that doesn't look as if it will be entirely benign. What's more, Uri already knows the secret everyone is trying so hard to hide from him, his captors having tormented him with the newspaper coverage of the story.

Viewers of Homeland may find that revelation familiar, as well as a later moment when a wife wakes to discover her husband curled up on the bedroom floor, because he can no longer sleep on a mattress. But that aside, there isn't a great deal to connect the two series. Homeland was a firework display that depended on a chain of startling explosions and shocking twists. In Prisoners of War, all the power lies in the dark, empty spaces in between, as people wait in the dark, not quite knowing what's going to happen next.

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
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
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.

    '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
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk