Channel 5’s latest US import seems clever. Based on a screenplay developed by J. J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan, Person of Interest aspires to be complex, but ultimately fails to be so. And it’s a great shame, because it is so very nearly brilliant. For now, it is simply mildly entertaining.
The premise is this (deep breath): Genius Harold Finch, played by Lost‘s Michael Emerson, creates super computer that collates all surveillance data and various records to predict acts of terrorism by spitting out the social security numbers of the people involved. Genius sells this to the government (naturally, the American government – why do things like this always seem to happen over the pond?). Genius discovers computer also predicts various other crimes that aren’t a threat to national security. But the government aren’t interested. Genius takes it upon himself to prevent these other predicted crimes. Hires a man of action (John Reese, portrayed by Jim Caviezel) to do his running about.
We can handle the notion of the weird super computer. As Coleridge said – when he wasn’t off both nipples on laudanum, or perhaps when he was – we can suspend our disbelief. But the smaller things begin to grind. Why must the brains of the operation be diminutive in stature, bespectacled and have some unspecified disability?
Apparently, he couldn’t know Krav Maga and wear a leather jacket, because to subvert that particular cliché would be tantamount to heresy. And why does Reese tail his marks with scarcely a few metres to spare and with all the subtlety of a fluorescent thong? It begs belief.
Most crucially of all, we need to know what drives Finch to try to stop these crimes. For frankly, without that, what remains is a rather pedestrian crime drama. In fact, when Reese questions Finch about his motivation, the latter replies ‘Oh, I have my reasons Mr. Reese?’. Oh, do you? That’s a shocker. Care to share them with us all? It wouldn’t undermine the pacing of the show to understand why he acts as he does. In fact, it would lend the show credibility that is absent in a lot of other areas.
Having deliberately shoved the more interesting questions into the background, what can Person of Interest offer us? The odd bit of action and the occasional flirt with a moral quandary perhaps. Its greatest asset though, is the quiet, electrifying presence of Caviezel himself. If that’s enough for you – and heaven knows we’ve watched stuff for less – you might like it.
Person of Interest certainly has potential. Hopefully the following 22 episodes (already aired in the US) see this developed sharpish.
Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 14th August 2012 on Channel 5.
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