Hacking into BBC Four, and onto DVD, Australian techno-conspiracy thriller The Code proves Europe doesn’t have a monopoly on Noir.
Slick and compelling, a six hour drama filled with interweaving strands of subterfuge and murky morality. The spectacular unspoilt landscape of Australia’s outback is contrasted with grubby dealings in the corridors of power in a series that has more in common with Hostages and Edge of Darkness than Neighbours or Home and Away.
Series creator, and script writer, Shelley Birse has been working in Australian drama for twenty years. She spent time in Israel during the Arab Spring and was aware of the role played by pro-democracy hacktivists in bypassing online protocols to access suppressed information and disseminate video files and documents.
Recipient of a grant from Scribe, a project partly backed by Screen Australia to foster new talent. The financing gave Birse space to develop The Code without the pressure of immediate deadlines. With additional time to research and write the series she sculpted a suspense filled drama that mined ever present fears of data protection in the Wikileaks era and the dirty tricks governmental agencies will employ to shut down leaks.
Before the first episode had aired the series had won awards and been pre-sold to several territories, including America and Canada. In Australia its première trounced main rival, Big Brother, in the ratings and landed a place inside the week’s top ten most watch programmes.
Alex Wisham (Lucy Lawless of Xena, and Battlestar Galactica) is a teacher in remote New South Wales township, Lindara. One night she notices that her truck has been “borrowed” by Clarence, a young boy she has been looking after.
Forced to meet surreptitiously because of his girlfriend’s dissaproving parents, Clarence has taken the vehicle without permission. An evening joyriding around the surrounding area ends in tragedy for this young couple when a tanker collides with the truck.
Journalist Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) is fed a story by a member of the government’s press team about a cabinet minster’s extramarital relationship. In the bundle of incriminating evidence is a piece of paper with Lindara scrawled on it. Unsure how this connects to the governmental matter he’s reporting, Ned decides to dig deeper and soon finds himself investigating why the scene of a fatal car crash has been tampered with.
The corpse of Clarence’s girlfriend has been removed from the vehicle and the only tangible proof she was in the truck is a mobile phone with a corrupted video file. Curious about the footage’s Ned allows his hacker brother Jesse (Ashley Zuckerman) to attempt a repair of the damaged content.
Poor quality footage recovered from the phone documents the horror of the collision and its aftermath. A shaky frame contains a number plate. Jesse tracks the vehicle to bio-tech company but his attempt to breach their online security portals triggers an investigation by a cyber crime unit.
Operating on the mild end of the autistic spectrum, Jesse is living under parole conditions and is banned from using WiFi, internet connected mobile phones, or consorting with other hackers. Fellow computer whizz Hani (Adele Perovic) offers to assist when the Bio-Tech company tries to infect Jesse’s computer with Malware. Accepting her offer means he runs the risk of being sent to prison.
Stunning cinematography that practically begs the viewer to board a plane, subtle and smart screenwriting completed by first rate acting makes this a show to remember and enjoy all over again on DVD.
The Code is a sophisticated crime series packed with moments of high-wire tension that signals the emergence of a new form of Noir. The Australian film industry has justly been recognised for its consistently high quality productions since the release of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Now is the time to start treating the country’s TV with similar levels of respect. If more shows are produced to this standard, not getting a UK release would be criminal.
The Code can be ordered from Amazon: