The Tourist, review: Jamie Dornan’s mystery Down Under gives the BBC a New Year hit

Finally, a television thriller that doesn’t feel formulaic. OK, The Tourist (BBC One) is a police procedural of sorts. And it does involve a cast member from Line of Duty. But it’s the only show to feature Jamie Dornan as an amnesiac trying to work out why he was run off the road by a truck in the Australian Outback, so let’s be thankful for that.

Dornan is driving his little old car along a deserted highway when the truck looms into view and gives chase. He doesn’t appear to be overly confused or panicked about this, which is mysterious in itself. Eventually, it slams into him and the next thing we know, he’s waking up in hospital with no memory of who he is.

It’s a good premise, and a pleasant change to be watching something that isn’t set in grey old Britain. The tone is interesting, because it isn’t quite a serious thriller. Dornan’s case is in the hands of a quirky rookie cop with weight issues, played by Danielle Macdonald. I’m not saying that writers Harry and Jack Williams are channelling the Coen Brothers, but I’ve got a feeling they’ve seen Fargo more than once.

Dornan sets out to look for clues to his own identity, all of which suggest that he isn’t your bog standard tourist. They include a man who rings him for help while buried alive. Dornan listens to the man’s terrified call, waits for a beat then asks: “Who is this?” There is a vein of dark humour here, although it only surfaces now and then. Shalom Brune-Franklin (who appeared in Line of Duty as Chloe Bishop, the world’s most competent police trainee) shows up as a waitress who knows more than she’s letting on, and she isn’t allowed anywhere near a witty one-liner.

Dornan plays the role just right: his man with no name is an enigma. Is he a good guy who got himself mixed up in something bad? Or a criminal getting his just desserts? All of the episodes are available as a boxset on iPlayer if you’re itching to find out.

Will the show live up to its promising start? Well, the Williams brothers are responsible for two shows that were good (The Missing, Baptiste) and two that were terrible (The Widow, Angela Black). They also wrote Liar, which had a great series one and a risible series two. So this one could go either way. Hopefully the BBC won’t kick off the New Year with a dud
 

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