Can you believe what you see? Not always, it seems, as the millions of viewers who are hooked on the BBC’s latest thriller The Capture can attest. After just two head-spinning episodes they have learnt that the truth can be rather more complicated than it appears, thanks to a series of bamboozling plot twists.
The show is a ‘surveillance thriller’ where everything — even CCTV footage — can apparently be faked, with the police and intelligence services having astonishing reach.
The same could be said of this six-episode production, airing on BBC1 on Tuesdays, which has brought Hollywood stars Famke Janssen and Ron Perlman to join rising British talents including Holliday Grainger and Callum Turner.
But do CCTV super-hubs exist? Can the police really pick out faces in a crowd? And does the camera never lie — or is it all fake news? Let’s find out…
Can you believe what you see? Not always, it seems, as the millions of viewers who are hooked on the BBC’s latest thriller The Capture can attest
HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
The Capture begins with an appeal by soldier Shaun Emery against his conviction for shooting a Taliban fighter without warning during a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
In court, a video expert testified that the helmet camera evidence that had convicted him — showing him shout a warning after shooting — was unreliable because the picture and sound were out of sync, meaning he had actually shouted beforehand.
He goes free. After celebrations at a pub in South London, Emery asks his barrister Hannah Roberts, played by Laura Haddock, out on a date. They kiss, and then Hannah tells him that she needs to catch her bus home.
He goes free. After celebrations at a pub in South London, Emery asks his barrister Hannah Roberts, played by Laura Haddock, out on a date
Viewers then see a young woman monitoring CCTV footage look on in horror at a man who appears to be Shaun assaulting and then abducting what appears to be Hannah.
DI Rachel Carey, played by Grainger, is asked to investigate. She has just moved from the Met Police’s SO15 Counter Terrorism unit. Emery is identified via the CCTV, and brought in for questioning. When shown the video he insists it never happened — and that the footage must have been tampered with.
Things get more confusing still for the show’s 3.8 million viewers in the second episode, when MI5 redact the video footage. Police analysis of Shaun’s car uncovers no evidence that Hannah has ever been in it. Yet she remains missing without trace.
They kiss, and then Hannah tells him that she needs to catch her bus home
Taking it upon himself to find Hannah, Shaun goes to her flat. But while inside he realises that he isn’t the only intruder. There is another man there. As the man flees, Shaun gives chase by jumping in a taxi.
By this point, Rachel’s team are following Shaun in a car while she watches from a surveillance room.
Shaun is abducted by his taxi driver and taken to a house where he is imprisoned at the say-so of a mysterious figure played by Perlman. Bizarrely, Rachel can see Shaun getting out of the taxi and going into the house on CCTV, but her team who are on the ground see nothing at all. So, what on earth is going on?
By this point, Rachel’s team are following Shaun in a car while she watches from a surveillance room
RISE OF THE SUPER HUBS
One of the most dazzling parts of the drama, which has been made by the American NBCUniversal network for the BBC, are the scenes inside the CCTV ‘super hubs’ where vast banks of floor-to-ceiling screens are watched by police officers who seem able to find anyone, anywhere.
There are also smaller CCTV hubs monitored by local authority operatives and it is at one of these that the apparent attack on Hannah is witnessed.
So, do such places exist? The answer is a firm yes.
In 2017, police in East Lancashire took the unusual step of unveiling their £1million state of the art CCTV hub, which covered nearly 250 cameras and was hailed as a model for the future.
The Met Police also have a room where they can view footage from their cameras, those from co-operating local authorities and from British Transport Police
The control room is in Blackburn and seven operators plus two supervisors monitor the cameras around the clock. There is a video wall of 33 42-inch screens.
City of London police confirm they have a control room manned by officers and they monitor 100 public space surveillance cameras 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Met Police also have a room where they can view footage from their cameras, those from co-operating local authorities and from British Transport Police. It was recently used during the Notting Hill Carnival.
A spokesman for the National Counter Terrorism Security Office was unable to say whether there is a further super hub in the Counter Terrorism offices.
MILLIONS ARE ON DIGITAL DATABASE
In this week’s episode, DI Carey found her bailed suspect Shaun while he was breaking into the home of his missing barrister.
A biometric scanner identified him from his facial features taken from CCTV.
Again, this is something which is already being done. The annual report of the UK’s Biometric’s Commissioner, released in July, revealed that digital facial images are now routinely collected and stored by the police, and that they are experimenting with live facial image-matching in public places — as seen in The Capture.
There is a ‘prospect’ of setting up a national database of facial images, which the commissioner noted would offer benefits for law enforcement — but also pose immense threats to individual privacy.
In this week’s episode, DI Carey found her bailed suspect Shaun while he was breaking into the home of his missing barrister
Police have already set up a national database of facial images of people who have been arrested, but never charged or convicted, which operates according to their own guidelines. There are more than 19 million faces on it.
There has been mass camera-scanning of people in public places in real-time using CCTV systems to test if it is possible to pick out individuals who are on the database.
In the report, the Biometrics Commissioner flagged the need for policy on police databases being used by other Government departments or agencies.
At present, biometric scanning is evolving so rapidly it is not covered by the current statutory regimen, which is limited to DNA profiles and fingerprints.
The show’s executive producer Rosie Alison said: ‘There’s a real authenticity underlying the research done on this. It does pose a few questions, which are of our time — almost slightly beyond our time — about technological advancements. But it’s scarily real.’
HOLLYWOOD STAR LINE-UP
Ron Perlman, most famous for playing Hellboy, is Frankie, who works in intelligence and believes that Shaun could be useful to him.
His boss is Dutch actress Famke Janssen, a former Bond girl who appeared as Jean Grey in several X-Men films.
They are joined by a cast of British actors including Sharon Rooney of My Mad Fat Diary as a CCTV operator, Ralph Ineson (Finchy in The Office) as Rachel’s boss, and The Crown stars Lia Williams (Wallis Simpson) and Ben Miles (Peter Townsend) as an MI5 officer and Rachel’s ex-boss Commander Danny Hart.
Ron Perlman, most famous for playing Hellboy, is Frankie, who works in intelligence and believes that Shaun could be useful to him
Lead actress Holliday, 31, started out as a child star, with her first role — in the BBC comedy drama All Quiet On The Preston Front — coming when she was six. She then worked on series including Dalziel and Pascoe, Doctors and Casualty.
She was brought up in Didsbury, Manchester, by single mum Jan, a graphic designer, although she has contact with her father. She’s revealed that it’s a matter of regret that a string of roles requiring she perfect RP, or ‘Received Pronunciation’, mean she has lost her Manchester accent.
Her big break was in the 2012 film Bel Ami, in which she appeared opposite Twilight star Robert Pattinson. This was followed by high-profile roles including Lucrezia Borgia in The Borgias and Estella in Great Expectations. She also appeared alongside friend Lily James in Cinderella, as ugly stepsister Anastasia.
His boss is Dutch actress Famke Janssen, a former Bond girl who appeared as Jean Grey in several X-Men films
They are joined by a cast of British actors including Sharon Rooney of My Mad Fat Diary as a CCTV operator
She lives in North London with actor boyfriend Harry Treadaway, who played Dr Frankenstein in the series Penny Dreadful (his identical twin is Fortitude star Luke Treadaway) and has just been filming the forthcoming Star Trek: Picard series in Hollywood.
In the show Holliday plays rising star Carey, who has just been promoted to DI in the Homicide department. She said: ‘She’s a fish out of water at the beginning, trying to prove her worth to the really experienced people around her.’
The Crown stars Lia Williams (Wallis Simpson) is also in the cast
In the show Holliday plays rising star Carey, who has just been promoted to DI in the Homicide department
Callum Turner, 29, plays Emery, a young soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The former model starred alongside Holliday in The Borgias and won a Bafta breakthrough award after his performance in ITV drama Leaving opposite Helen McCrory.
More recently he played Anatole Kuragin in War and Peace and Theseus Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. He is dating The Crown actress Vanessa Kirby, who played Princess Margaret.
Callum Turner, 29, plays Emery, a young soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
He said his character is ‘a man on a mission to change the perception of him: how the world views him, how his family views him, how his friends view him.’
He added: ‘Up until the point where we first meet him, Shaun’s behaved in ways that are self-destructive and have pushed people away, and he wants to change.’
WRITER WITH BAFTA FOR TERROR FILM
Ben Chanan won a BAFTA for directing the 2012 documentary The Plot To Bring Down Britain’s Planes.
This chilling investigation gave a detailed insight into how British intelligence thwarted a plot to plant liquid explosives on ten UK planes and blow them up over the Atlantic in 2006. The contributors included the then heads of the CIA and British security services.
He also wrote and directed the one-off TV dramas Cyberbully and The People Next Door, and directed the first series of The Missing on BBC1.
Ben Chanan (centre) won a BAFTA for directing the 2012 documentary The Plot To Bring Down Britain’s Planes
‘Video evidence is one of the most successful ways to convict a criminal,’ he says. ‘Video fakery is becoming ever more convincing. So what happens when these two developments collide? What happens to criminal justice if we can no longer trust what we see?
‘When I began writing The Capture two years ago, these questions felt firmly like the stuff of hypothetical ‘what if’ drama.
‘I think they still are, but maybe not for long.
‘Barely a week goes by without a new warning about the potential horrors of facial recognition, deep-fakes [where someone else’s face is planted on to another’s body in incredibly convincing detail] or fake news. Perhaps we will soon have to find new ways to judge the veracity of video footage.’
Chanan also wrote and directed the one-off TV dramas Cyberbully and The People Next Door, and directed the first series of The Missing on BBC1
He said he was inspired to write the drama after working on The Plot . . .
‘My ambition starting out was to create a modern-day conspiracy thriller that evoked the mood and paranoia of my favourite 1970s post-Watergate movies, The Parallax View and Three Days Of The Condor. I had no idea our current era would turn out to be such a good fit.’
SO IS IT POSSIBLE TO FAKE CCTV?
Of course it is possible to fake CCTV, although whether it is achievable to make a ‘deep fake’ which plays through a live CCTV camera is an open question.
In April this year, fake CCTV footage was posted on YouTube which purported to show the murder of Trainspotting 2 actor Bradley Welsh. Welsh, 48, was gunned down going into his apartment in Edinburgh after a visit to the gym.
Several female celebrities have also been the victim of pornographic deep fakes, which appear to show them engaging in sordid acts.
Cyber experts have also sounded warnings over popular ‘face swapping’ apps, which allow users to put their own faces on those of friends or movie stars using deep fake technology, saying that users cannot be sure where their likenesses will end up.
As to whether Shaun in The Capture is a villain or the victim of fakery, well, only time — and more bamboozling plot twists — will tell.