Hunted tries to recreate the feeling of “being on the run” with big names and seemingly real life escapes from the CCTV that permeates our “surveillance state”, as Channel 4 insists on calling it. Fourteen ordinary citizens are given the chance to be fake fugitives, whose aims are to evade capture for up to 28 days. Home interviews with each figure reveal their slightly vague reasons for attempting such a feat – GP Dr Ricky Allen states that the “power of the state frightens me”, friends Emily and Lauren want to run away like they did as children, and the Singh brothers want to challenge the preconceptions towards Asians and terrorism. Each episode is full of nail-biting near misses, and shots of the investigators crowding around a set looking at computers and Skyping their “men on the road.”
The producers are clearly trying to make a point about the hyper-technology of our country, as well as trying to get into the mind-set of a fugitive. As Emily voiced, – “I have never, ever felt more trapped.” Inevitably, there are elements that seem unconvincing and painfully staged, for example the fact that each figure has their own cameraman following them. Logistical questions arise – when Emily and Lauren are hitchhiking, who would let four people into their car? Speaking of, those who help the fugitives seem to be fully aware that they are participating in a TV show – this is informed even in the investigators’ public appeals.
There are moments when the investigators employ powers that seem perfectly matched – as if they know exactly what they need to find out. However, I think as a television audience, we can’t expect Channel 4 to recreate the entire police surveillance rights, and the fact that they simulate CCTV and ANPR powers is understandable, and perhaps even comforting. The real powers are being used to catch real fugitives…
Yes, its melodramatic and not entirely convincing, but there is at least one moment per episode which makes me shiver – for example, when the Hunters hack and recreate one of the fugitive’s phone, and find their location from their junk mail about holiday homes. Or when they coldly analyse photos of Emily and her son, and wait for her to weaken and call home to see how he is. The powers of the state are accurately replicated, and Hunted completes its mission in frightening its audience – we learn that even when delete something, it can always be found. I also found myself hoping that the fugitives would out-wit the hunters, leading me to contemplate the implications, of a real life and ready prepared criminal on the run. Especially if they’ve been watching Channel 4’s Hunted.