Television (Review): When loose ends slip through sweaty palms

WE'RE MAKING a film which is very much a travel film,' explained John Sweeney to the man who runs Osijek, a character recently described by another journalist as 'a serial killer in fatigues'. This was not exactly candid, although you couldn't really blame him for it. The man behind the desk was responsible for setting up the International Brigade, a nasty assemblage of foreign adventurers and mercenaries who fought on the Croatian side, and Sweeney was investigating what he believed were two murders - the death of a Swiss journalist, Christian Wertenberg, and of the photographer Paul Jenks.

In any case, Osijek's head man didn't look as if he expected to talk about local swimming facilities and Croatian nightlife. As they rolled out of town for a guided tour of the front lines, he popped a grenade on the dashboard and pulled out his automatic pistol.

In one sense Sweeney had been telling the truth - his film was the first of Travels with My Camera (C4), a series in which writers are accompanied by a Hi-8 video camera and someone to hold it up. But for Sweeney it was less important to travel hopefully than to arrive - the particular destination he had in mind being a solution to the mystery of Paul Jenks's death. The Croats claimed Jenks had been killed by a Serb sniper during a visit to the front line. Sweeney believed he might have been shot because he had been asking questions about the death of Wertenberg, who had apparently gone undercover to investigate the International Brigade.

If I were starting from that position, I would go in the other direction, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, which I guess is why I am not a war reporter. Sweeney himself didn't look particularly happy while negotiating the empty highways and bland farmland which formed the Croatian front.

The Hi-8 camera proved a good device for capturing nervousness on film, ducking its head down whenever they approached a checkpoint and hovering outside rooms as ugly men waved threateningly in its direction. When Frenchie Hancock, an unpleasant Welsh mercenary, threatened to kill Sweeney for an earlier piece he had written, it recoiled across the hotel lobby as if in fright. And though there are still set- pieces to camera, they can follow very rapidly on the incidents that provoked them, catching rattled people before the emotions have settled.

There's no great credit in owning up to sweaty palms anymore - it's become one of the cliches of front-line journalism, a form of accreditation for the contemporary writer. But there is credit in not tidying up your story, smoothing its contours to a more satisfying curve, and Sweeney deserves that. At first he had been sceptical about the Serb sniper theory, taking the view that the distance was simply too great. After he had travelled to the Serb side and stared through a sniper's telescopic sight he conceded that it was possible after all, a detail that withdrew the possibility of simple revelation, but left you feeling there was at least one person you could trust in this territory of half-truths, half-spoken.

Peter Cook was very funny on Room 101 (BBC 2), though I couldn't really tell you how. Sometimes he gets a belly laugh just by drawling 'I can't stand it', elsewhere there's more agility involved. He shares with Paul Merton (or the other way around, if you want to get fussy about precedence) an ability to leap much further than you expected without showing a trace of the effort on his face - as when a diatribe about bunnies' pink eyes leads to his matter-of-fact concession that 'the only place a rabbit looks really good is in a disco'.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
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.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific