Time is a 3-part crime drama miniseries from the BBC, starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. Time is set in an English prison and features Mark Cobden (Bean), a convict and Eric McNally (Graham), a prison officer in the lead roles. The miniseries follows both characters through their life journeys as circumstances drive them into making difficult choices and decisions.
Essentially, Cobden and McNally are good men in bad situations due to poor decision making. For Cobden, his alcoholism led him to drive when drunk, resulting in a needless death that cost him his liberty, his teaching job and his marriage. In addition, he is wracked with guilt, unable to forgive himself as his misdeed haunts his nightmares.
For McNally, his problem is having to compromise his ideals in order to protect his son, who happens to be a convict in a different prison. McNally is blackmailed by one of the convicts into smuggling contraband into the prison, which of course, exposes McNally to huge risk himself. However, once McNally is convinced that there is no other solution, he sacrifices his values for the sake of his son, without hesitation.
Now, prison dramas are fertile ground for engaging stories and characters. From The Shawshank Redemption to Orange is the New Black, viewers should be familiar with the tropes by now. There are the abusive prison guards, the bullies and the internal power structures that our protagonists have to deal with. Under such pressure, it is extremely tough for anyone – even good men – to resist the threats and the seduction of compromise.
Thematically, the English prison life depicted in Time, isn’t too far removed from that experienced in the USA. It is a living hell. Rehabilitation is often the lowest priority and it is more a question of survival on both sides of the bars, so to speak. Surely, humane treatment must be a priority, instead of this brutal physical and psychological torture. But there you go.
Both Bean and Graham are excellent in their respective roles. Each actor is able to express the pathos within each character’s dilemma brilliantly. Bean somewhat plays against type with the meek Cobden, as does Graham, who usually portrays hardcore criminal types.
Time is yet another compelling piece of British television which is recommended viewing. Check it out!
Now streaming on BBC One.
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