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TONIGHT'S TV: The Kidnap Diaries (BBC4, 9pm)

Posted by Michael Moran
Michael Moran
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on Thursday, 26 April 2012

This extraordinarily powerful drama recounts the tale of Sean Langan, a Channel 4 video journalist who in 2008 set off into the badlands of Afghanistan to interview senior figures within Al-Qaeda and The Taliban.

Perhaps predictably, he and his driver were kidnapped by a Taliban element and held captive for almost three months.

If you remember the news reports of Langan’s capture, you’ll know how things turned out. Even knowing the outcome, though, doesn’t stop this being a tense, at times almost unbearably tense piece of television.

 

 

If you’ve been following Channel 4’s superb Homeland you’ll see some situations and even characters that will seem familiar. The difference is that these are, give or take some dramatic licence, real people and real events.

In fact, compared to news reports of the day the conflict and tension seems to have been dialled back a little. The Kidnap Diaries dwells less on mock-executions and debilitating dysentery in favour of Langan’s growing appreciation of the home and family he left behind.

Douglas Henshall is a stoical, buttoned-up Langan and Jimi Mistry plays his somewhat fatalistic driver.

The Taliban are depicted as an odd, capricious bunch. They are friendly but prone to sudden changes of mood, given to good news/bad news jokes about Langan’s fate and seem unaccountably cross about the Moon landings.

 

 

Langan’s capture and its conclusion are still controversial. I don’t think this docudrama, brilliantly underplayed as it is, will do anything to resolve that controversy. Nevertheless, this gloomily scripted, gloomily-lit piece is a top-notch hour of television.

Definitely worth a look.

If you can stand the tension.

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