Hard Sun is the latest prime-time series to be shown on the BBC on Saturday nights – a crime thriller with a sci-fi twist.
The first episode of the series is set in near future London where two police detectives – DCI Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and DI Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) are partnered up and assigned to investigate an apparent suicide. Of course, the case leads the pair down a giant rabbit hole with a secret that MI5 are desperate to protect.
Hard Sun is a series with a lot of talent on screen and behind the camera. It was written by Neil Cross, the creator of Luther and directed by Brian Kirk, best known for directing three episodes of Game of Thrones and was considered to direct Thor: The Dark World. The cast is a mix of well known and emerging talent: Jim Sturgess is the big star, and the first episode featured Lorraine Burroughs, Aisling Bea and Luther alumni Nikki Amuka-Bird. This should give audiences a lot of hope.
Despite the caliber of the cast, there were issues. The main one was some of the actors seem too young for their roles. Sturgess is 38, and even with a beard, he looks young. It was hard to believe him as a hard-boiled senior detective especially when he is shouting at a street and smashing up car windows or when he is worried about his family. He can’t pull off badass, hard-ass or desperate. Deyn and Bea also looked too young for their roles. Deyn was playing senior detective which is technically possible but unlikely, and it was stated that she was a young teenager to justify why she has an adult son. At least Amuka-Bird was convincing as a shady MI5 officer.
The episode starts with some brutal violence with Renko getting beat up by a young man (Jojo Macari) which sets up her character dynamic for the series. It is an instant start to the series especially for prime time Saturday night viewing.
Hard Sun has been heavily promoted in the UK, and its twist was already announced – Earth is about to suffer an extinction level event. This affects the first episode because there could have been a great bait-and-switch from a police/spy conspiracy thriller to an apocalyptic level drama. It is basically like the first act of Deep Impact.
Even without prior knowledge of the show’s premise, there are clues throughout the first episode of something bigger than a government conspiracy. There are computer monitors showing solar flares from the sun and the cinematography shows a large red sun looming over London. These touches would have been more impactful if it weren’t for the marketing.
Hard Sun comes across as the BBC attempting to make an American style show. The biggest example was a large chase sequence when Hicks and Renko are following a young man who has a flash drive with information on it, and they end up being chased by the Security Service with a big car chase in London. It was a well-executed set piece with a decent amount of bloodshed. There are also small touches like the character Renko using the term ‘flash drive’ – in the UK people use the term USB stick.
The episode did have a terrific ending with David Bowie’s “5 Years” playing as the main characters are forced to make a decision that would impact their families and the whole world. It offers enough intrigue to make the show worthy of continued viewing.
The first episode of Hard Sun acts as the BBC’s attempt to make a blockbuster action show in the guise of a police procedural. The first episode can easily feed someone’s bloodlust and offers a decent idea of a sci-fi thriller hybrid.