Five Days at Memorial (Apple TV, eight episodes) comes preloaded with ethical umpires, based on events that took place at a New Orleans hospital in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.
Not wanting to combine disaster drama with systematic critique, HBO’s Chernobyl, but its critical idea was to show a character carrying George W Bush, nonchalantly flying over the flooded city water in Air Force One, with the middle finger.
It’s not that the anger in that scene was misdirected. Hurricane Katrina didn’t necessarily cause a humanitarian disaster of historic proportions, but the inability and patience of federal, state, and corporate America ensured it did.
At Memorial Medical Center, backup generators failed when water from Lake Pontchartrain poured into the city. Supplies of food, medicine and water were depleted. The rescue effort itself was a disaster. Some doctors, convinced that some of their patients’ lives would not be saved, euthanized them with lethal doses of morphine.
A surgeon, Dr. Anna Pou (pronounced Poe), played here by Vera Farmiga, was later arrested for second-degree murder, though the case never went to trial. All of this formed the subject of a 2013 book by Sheri Fink, who produced the television adaptation alongside Carlton Cuse and John Ridley. In real life, Dr. Pou probably has some personality, which can be interesting to learn, but Farmiga’s version of her merely alternates between tragic eyes and sweaty fatigue. foul. As a performance, it’s too general – a tense but kind doctor – to give us any grasp of the material.
Then again, the show doesn’t really want to give us any such grip. In the opening episode, Dr. Pou runs through a dangerous stormy passageway between hospital buildings, praying as she goes. What are these Five Days at the Memorial so too – pray its way in the dangerous past. People fail to realize that what happened at the Memorial is important not because death is a moral quagmire (although sometimes it is) but because the hospital has been abandoned by organizations are supposed to help it, and this teaches us something about how America works, or it doesn’t. But America keeps telling its own false stories; a reason that certain problems are not resolved.
In the episode’s conclusion, a heartbroken indignant attorney general asks a press conference: “What conditions can justify taking a life?” Since the answer to this question is very clearly “It depends”, Five Days at the Memorial Can’t really squeeze a lot of drama out of it. Instead, it defaults to people crying. The background music of the orchestra is loud. Beloved pets die. Surface personal injury. It’s Sorkin soup.
What would you do with a lavish show of real human suffering that ignores the context in which the suffering took place? If your critical mind isn’t working, you’re stuck with erotic feelings: tearful faces and speeches about God. Five Days at the Memorial It doesn’t want you to think, it wants you to feel, and what it wants you to feel is sadness. It manipulates you with the truth.
On the other hand, a straight-up horror movie honestly manipulates you. Being cheated is part of the deal. Hide and seek (All four, eight episodes), in which two policemen hunt down a series of kidnapped children, was made in Ukraine in 2019. Its producers are clearly big fans of the show. The Bridge, The Killing, Der Pass and other recent Eurocrime meisterwerke, in which Straight Cop teamed up with Odd Cop to solve an unnecessarily complicated mystery, and deduced that the secret to success with this formula was a) an amazing storyline every five minutes and b) a terrifying gloom sets in – this is an industrial city in the winter at best.
Hide and seekThe straight cop is Major Maksim Shumov (Pyotr Rykov). Shumov was gruff. He gets the job done but occasionally takes the time to grapple with his traumatic past. Odd Cop is senior investigator Varta Naumova (Yulia Abdel Fattakh). Naumova is rude. She wears black leather gloves all the time and uncovers clues that other cops missed. “Naumova… what’s wrong with her?” Shumov asked his boss. “She acts weird all the time. There is no such thing as her own. Talks like Terminator”. Shumov had clearly never seen a European crime movie before. What’s up with Naumova? She’s looking for those missing children, damn it! Meanwhile, clearly struggling with her traumatic past.
Vladimir Putin, at least for now, has ensured that Hide and seek appears on our screens not only as a satisfying Euro thriller but also as a reminder of what Ukraine is relatively ordinary like making a series of buddy-cop mystery movies. Let’s hope for Part 2, along with everything else that naive integers imply.
Chris Wasser is away
Video of the day
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/television/tv-reviews/whats-streaming-this-week-five-days-at-memorial-glosses-over-the-real-scandal-of-hurricane-katrina-41906136.html This Week’s Streaming: Five Days at the Memorial shed light on the real Hurricane Katrina scandal