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Until the first ad break arrives to remind you that Jed Mercurio’s new police thriller Trigger Point is on ITV rather than the Beeb, you might as well be watching a new Line of Duty. True, there are differences, if you squint. It opens with Vicky McClure in cop gear, speeding through the Blackwall Tunnel as tense radio chatter and foreboding bassy music plays in the background – but rather than Kate Fleming, she is Lana Washington. And instead of the anti-corruption squad, she’s in the bomb disposal squad. Adrian Lester is her partner, Joel Nutkins. They’re old muckers – Afghanistan veterans turned cops – who have an easy rapport. She insists on using his “lucky” wire cutters. They look out for each other. Are you anxious yet? You will be.
It’s a sweltering summer’s day in east London and a bomb factory has been found in a flat. What seems like a relatively innocuous situation, at least by the standards of bomb disposal, escalates through the first episode. No sooner are we enjoying the relief at one bomb not going off, than another bomb is found. Whoever has set this trap has planned it well. With each bomb that doesn’t detonate, the tension builds: that’s the thing about bomb programmes. If Chekhov’s bomb is introduced, eventually there is going to be an explosion. But when?
This is narrative junk food. But there’s a reason junk food is popular: it’s tasty! At least while you’re eating it. It’s impossible not to be drawn into bomb disposal situations, even if you feel dirty afterwards. All that pent-up jeopardy can dazzle critical faculties, which is why The Hurt Locker, an entirely passable action film, won the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscars.
I’m not sure Trigger Point will be winning too many screenplay awards. Although it is exec-produced by Mercurio, it has been written by a newcomer, Daniel Brierley. I suspect some of the dialogue might not have got past the boss if he was keeping a closer eye on things. “Let’s get some air before we neutralise the device,” Lana says, after they find yet another bomb. I can’t claim to have worked in the field, but I have had a lot of human conversations, and I would bet that this sequence of words has never been uttered in bomb disposal. A scene in which a prisoner emerges from a car, bloodied and terrified, is inadvertently funny, with Lana telling him to stand still as though he’s a toddler refusing to get dressed.
In between the tense set pieces there are rudimentary attempts at character and plot development. Their enemy is more sophisticated than they first appear. Lana is in a relationship with a hotly tipped young detective called DI Thom Youngblood (Mark Stanley), a name that sounds like a descriptive placeholder for the character. McClure keeps being cast in this kind of role because she could do tough-yet-sensitive professional with her eyes closed, although it might not advisable when you’re figuring out which wire to snip. Lester is always likeable, too. Nutkins, inevitably known as “Nut”, is your common or garden weathered veteran, whose professional accomplishments have come at the price of a messy home life. “If it’s a choice between the family or the job, there’s no choice, is there?” he says. The lesson of this derivative but watchable thriller is that if you spend enough time around bombs, the choice might end up being made for you.