Douglas Henshall as the snipist. Picture from Douglas

L.S. Media Rating ****

Cast: Douglas Henshall, John Hurt, Kate O’ Flynn.

The opening moments of the latest Sky Arts one off dramas, The Snipist, draws on the fear of control and the misuse of information. The viewing is even more gritty and disturbing by having the disembodied voice of John Hurt relaying “the facts” of a Britain that has undergone a post-apocalyptic disaster when the deadly disease of rabies has got a foot hold in the country.

The viewer is constantly is told that, “It is your fault, you allowed rabies in Britain, you are to blame” by John Hurt’s ominous Ministry of Information and that alone will remind viewers old enough to remember the incredible and powerful scare tactics by Governments past in their public information films which included the public safety films of Lonely Waters and the 80’s Aids warning, voiced also by John Hurt of “Don’t Die of Ignorance.”

This dystopian look at an alternative future is none the less compelling and avid viewing and the interplay between the three characters is magnified by Matthew Holnes’s incredible script that draws out every minute piece of paranoia and acting ability that Douglas Henshall can muster. After his rather excellent work on the programme Primeval, it might have been a while before Douglas Henshall got his teeth back into a part that it seems he was born to play. In The Snipist though, this was a performance that held him in higher esteem that possibly he even thought. The fear in his eyes as he constantly scans the horizon for survivors and for any dogs showing the symptoms of Rabies was captured beautifully by the use of camera work giving an opposing view of the 100 yard stare.

The feeling of isolation, desolation and climate of terror was ever intensified by the voice of John Hurt. One of the U.K.’s acting elite, John Hurt manages effortlessly to draw on the viewers’ emotions and the final pay off where Douglas Henshall manages to fire of a shot against a fellow human being, even though he couldn’t shoot a dog that had got into the complex, was as telling as any reveal you are likely to see outside of the B.B.C.’s Sherlock Holmes.

The Snipist is a remarkable play by Matthew Holnes which draws on the very idea of humanity reverting to animalistic and destructive type when society finally breaks down, chilling and dramatically superb.

Ian D. Hall