Very quickly, he asks a nearby passenger if she can watch his kids while he goes for a walk down the train. He quickly contacts the train attendant and tells her about suspicious activity in the train toilet. Here we learn Budd is an undercover police officer who “saw someone acting suspiciously at Marstan”.
Eventually they open the toilet door and a burqa-clad woman emerges with a bomb strapped around her body. David’s job now is to calm the woman and get her to deactivate the bomb in the most gentlemanly way before special forces arrive. It’s one of the most tense and nail-biting opening sequences of living memory - you’ll be shakin’ to the bone.
What I love about this show is how refreshingly un-PC it is. For example, it makes no qualms about exposing the implicit bias behind the police’s treatment of potential terror suspects. Budd is supposedly tracking an “Asian male in his late 20s” who was acting “suspiciously at Marstan”, but you wonder whether Budd would have such suspicions that the man is bomber had he been white. At another moment, a politician remarks about “monkeys” only for Budd to say “I’m mixed race”.
Of course, it’s preposterous - any movie or show about a police officer falling in love with a Home Secretary is; although this one - thanks to its Westminster setting and corporate tone - clearly has aspirations to be a detailed and realistic political drama like ‘Borgen’ (2012-) or ‘State of Play’ (2003) and that’s how Mercurio treats it. No matter how silly the plot may be, you believe it because Mercurio believes in it and you’re swept along with it.
There are numerous real-world parallels to be had here especially in its portrait of the controversy between PTSD-suffering soldiers and the decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. But I found more similarities in the demeanor of Hawes’ Julia Montague whose hardline immigration policies and hard-nosed demeanor has a strong air of the last three Home Secretaries including ex-Prime Minister Theresa May. You could certainly imagine Priti Patel in this woman’s shoes - she’s just as cold and calculating and right-wing.
Why ‘Bodyguard’ works so well is partly down to Mercurio’s realistic writing, but also the chemistry between Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden. Hawes is an indomitable actress - “steely Keeley'' as I like to call her - and her tall, intimidating figure couldn’t be better suited to playing a politician along with her crisp RP vowels and short haircut. Madden, meanwhile, is a strong contender for the next James Bond - cold, seductive and lethally efficient. I also loved the multiple sex scenes between them - in the toilet, on the bed, against a cupboard.
‘Bodyguard’ is on Netflix now.
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
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