Christmas Eve review – fizzling thriller feels like tuning in too late to Spooks

Ustinov studio, Bath
Patrick Baladi and Niamh Cusack impress in Daniel Kehlmann’s two-hander about surveillance, but their characters are mere mouthpieces

Judith, a philosophy professor, is on her way to her parents’ house for Christmas when she is stopped by the police, taken to a basement and interrogated by a man named Thomas. “What do you want from me?” she asks. Surely this respected, quietly spoken, neatly dressed, middle-aged woman can’t be any kind of threat? Writing a paper on Frantz Fanon and the concept of revolutionary violence is not a crime. Nor is travelling to South America in your youth and espousing leftwing politics.

It is positively creepy just how much information Thomas and the state have gathered about Judith. He knows that yesterday she spent the hours between 2.30pm and 11.52pm with her ex-husband. He knows about a document on her laptop that appears to be a manifesto heralding an act of violence that will take place at midnight. Is the document, as Judith claims, an innocent exercise for a teaching seminar? Perhaps it doesn’t matter how the state got the information, because keeping people safe is more important.

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