Smile. You’re on camera.
With an estimated six million CCTV cameras scattered across the UK, Britain is the most surveilled country in the world. The average Londoner can expect to be caught 300 times a day by the cameras. And now, there’s even facial recognition technology being rolled out. Back in March 2018, this technology was used on CCTV footage from King’s Cross Station of the public. So yeah, smile. You’re on camera. Oh, and they know who you are.
You are being watched; the central theme of the BBC’s latest technological thriller The Capture feeds on our fear of a surveillance state and whether or not we can trust CCTV? We are told these cameras exist for our safety- they can help prevent crime and captured crime can be used in court to bring justice. But the question lies in who controls this data and does it infringe on our civil liberties?
In an increasingly tech-savvy world we seem to be able to fake it like never before. With a bit of software we can very easily create phenomenal photographs and videos that make it look like we are sipping mocktails on a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower when in fact we’re on a balcony in a garden in the UK. I suppose no one really has a problem with a little bit of photo magic or trickery, for use of a better word, but what if this modification led to the possible destruction of your life?
It is this modification of footage that lands soldier Lance Corporal Shaun Emery (Callum Turner) into very hot water. Having narrowly escaped jail after the video evidence showing him killing a Taliban fighter in cold blood is flawed, Emery is accused of another crime which is captured and watched live on CCTV. However, the viewer is left questioning whether he is guilty or not because despite the CCTV footage, Emery strongly denies the accusation and counter-terrorism becomes involved by withdrawing the footage. Investigating the case is DI Rachel Carey, played by Holliday Grainger who most will remember from Strike based on the best selling novels by J. K. Rowling under the name Robert Galbraith. She is an ambitious and powerful young women quickly working her way up the ladder.
We learn throughout the series that the CCTV footage of Emery kidnapping his barrister, Hannah Roberts, is in fact fake. Roberts was part of this trickery to bring to light the ‘correction’ programme that landed Alma Dahmani’s brother in jail for terrorism. ‘Correction’ is the recreation of events known to have happenee with intel gathered that would be inadmissible in court: “correction turns intelligence into evidence and keeps extremists off the streets”.
The Capture does a great job at enticing the paranoia within us all in this digital age. I think we can all see a benefit to the ‘correction’ programme if it prevents horrific and devastating events from occurring. But it also injects a lot of fear: it’s not only the misuse of these programmes that causes concern but it brings into doubt our belief in video recordings and the justice system. Can anyone argue that a video has been doctored? And what about innocent until proven guilty? Can we really convict people based on evidence seen and heard in court that is manufactured? Can those who have been put away for serious crimes be released if the video evidence is found to be faked? And does this mean we shouldn’t be putting photographs of ourselves on social media because that’s such an easy way for people to create a hyper realistic profile of us to use in the footage?
It also brings to light our worries about UK-US intelligence relations. Working alongside counter-terrorism is the CIA with Frank Napier (Ron Perlman) taking the lead. It is the brutality executed by Napier and his team which could be considered as torture and his decision to kill Roberts in an attempt to turn correction into reality despite the Brits warning not to kill her which raises red flags. At one point, Napier threatens he will ‘correct’ footage of Emery playing with his daughter to “images that haunt you and your family for the rest of your life” before convincing Emery to had himself in. I feel that as British people we pride ourselves in the humane way in which we deal with those who offend. Bringing the Americans into the mix makes the waters murky and could perhaps lead the moral compass astray. Is this what we want?
It was great to see a strong female lead with Grainger. She balanced the go-getting DI alongside the pain of finding out how that led to her being used to great effect to show the viewer what a complicated and unforgiving affair this is. Her relationship with her family could have been explored more deeply as there were only hints at fractures dropped. However, I found it very disappointing that her relationship with older married man Danny Hart (Ben Miles), who is part of the counter-terrorism ‘correction’ programme, brings to the forefront the idea that women have to sleep their way to the top despite what DI Carey’s intentions may have been. This image of frontrunning women having to sleep with their male bosses to further their career not only detracts from the strength of the character but also has negative repercussions for women as a whole. Moreover, having Gemma Garland (Lia Williams) as the cold ruthless head of the programme reinforces the idea that women who are at the top of the ladder are callous and must act like men.
Nevertheless, what’s refreshing about this thriller is that we find out what’s happening at the same time as the characters on screen. However, because it takes four episodes to find out what is going on, there are four hours of confusion and it does feel like it’s dragging on a bit especially with the episodes being released weekly. With this and Emery on the run and trying to put together the pieces to what happened to his barrister, the series feels like a low-budget and very slow paced Jason Bourne movie. That’s not to say that The Capture is a rip off of the Bourne franchise, it certainly deserves merit, but it’s something we’ve seen before done before and done just a tad bit better. I feel that if the episodes had been released on BBC iPlayer in one go or even been broadcasted on TV daily rather than weekly, it wouldn’t have felt so slow moving.
With the series ending with Emery behind bars and Grainger asking to join the programme it does seem highly likely that The Capture will be back. It seems unlikely that a second series will pick up from Emery’s case given he is behind bars and his character arc is complete: he feels that justice has caught up with him as it is revealed he did murder the Taliban insurgent and he now feels guilty about it. Writer Ben Chanan has said he wanted Emery’s storyline “resolved within these six hours” but that “anything’s possible”. I think it would be great to explore more of DI Carey’s personal life and perhaps even Garland’s (although that might be pushing it) and to see what happens to Carey’s morals and subsequently actions while she is part of the ‘correction’ programme. Series two definitely has the opportunity to send us into greater moral panic and play more intensely on our fears of a surveillance state.