Thursday, 15 December 2011

Above Suspicion: Silent Scream with Kelly Reilly PREVIEW

Too close for comfort? Anna Travis and James Langton. Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★

ITV1, from Wednesday, 11 January, 9pm

Story: British film star Amanda Delany is murdered at home after a night shoot on a movie. Investigating detective Anna Travis is shocked to discover that behind all of Amanda's success was a lonely, damaged and frightened young woman.

'Silent Scream' is the fourth Anna Travis story since 2009, based on the novels by queen of TV crime Lynda La Plante. In just a couple of years Above Suspicion has become a strong brand for ITV while remaining a pretty standard police procedural.

A murdered movie star, Amanda Delany (played by Joanna Vanderham, recently seen in Martina Cole's The Runaway), is the victim. The episode begins, disconcertingly, with a young woman being chased through foggy Victorian London by a caped figure, before we realise this is a movie scene and the woman is an actress (Delany, as it turns out).

The victim, Amanda Delany
Promiscuity, drugs and embezzlement
Travis and the team uncover a pile of unpleasantness around Delany that has suspects queuing up like the passengers on the Orient Express. Delany had double-crossed an actress flatmate to get her breakthrough part, slept with many of her leading men, and broke up at least one of their marriages. She also had a drug habit, issues with her creepy dad, and she suspected her agent of cheating her out of money. 

Meanwhile, detective chief superintendent Langton has been stitched up, apparently by someone on his own team, in his bid to win promotion. In between barking orders at Travis and making goo-goo eyes at her, Langton wants to find out who buggered his career prospects.

'Silent Scream' falls a little flat because much of it doesn't convince. Would the film crew continuing its shoot the morning after their leading actress has been stabbed to death? Such details along with the contrived level of suspects in the case make the drama feel a little formulaic.

Anna Travis – Jane Tennison's sassy sister in law enforcement
As is Anna Travis. Kelly Reilly is watchable and has screen presence, but as a hard-bitten high-flying detective, she needs a major suspension of disbelief. Where Lynda La Plante created a convincing female protagonist in Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison for Prime Suspect, Travis misses the target completely.

The character was more plausible, and interesting, in the early stories as a rookie detective. The intention has clearly been to have Travis become Tennison's sassier younger sister in law enforcement, but they've overdone the sass a bit.

With her high heels and heavy eye make-up, she looks too glam to go round questioning bereaved parents and possible suspects. When she turns up to interview a jilted wife and the wife saddles Travis with her shopping bags, that sums up the gravitas Travis brings to the job.

Ratings success
The detective has also been super fast-tracked from rookie to detective inspector, and La Plante says we will see 'Travis progress even further up the career ladder'. At this rate, she'll soon be Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

While it ain't easy to see what makes her such a promotion shoo-in, Above Suspicion's ingredients for hitting its customary audience of around six million are clear. 'Silent Scream' is packed with enough dodgy characters, scandal, lingering romance (between you know who) and police rivalry to make it a juicy three hours.

Kelly Reilly Anna Travis, CiarĂ¡n Hinds James Langton, Shaun Dingwall Mike Lewis, Michelle Holmes Barbara Maddox, Celyn Jones Paul Barolli, Amanda Lawrence Joan Faukland, Philip Arditti George Peroz, Geoff Bell Harry James, Dara Devaney Sean O'Dell, Ray Fearon Sam Power, Jack Fortune Mr Delany, Bryony Hannah Felicity Turner, Joanna Vanderham Amanda Delany