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TV review: Gripping account of how 9/11 unfolded from Inside The President’s War Room

Inside The President’s War Room
9/11: Inside The President's War Room

Even after all these years, the images from September 11 still have the power to send a chill down my spine.

For an event that has been played and replayed on our screens for two decades, the footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers and their subsequent collapse hasn’t lost a fraction of its ability to shock and horrify.

We’re going to see a lot of documentaries in the coming weeks as we approach the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks, but I’m going to predict now that none will be better than 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room (BBC1).

This absolutely riveting account of the US government’s actions in the 12 hours after the first plane hit the World Trade Center was a fresh angle on a tragedy that is still impacting the world today.

9/11: Inside the President’s War Room

I can’t imagine how many years of delicate negotiations it took to convince the likes of President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell to sit down and take us through the day, minute by minute.

As good as it was to hear from the big hitters, often the best details came from the White House staff and journalists who surrounded them on September 11.

Andy Card, the White House Chief of Staff, was refreshingly candid about his fiery exchanges with Bush, who wanted to fly back to Washington in defiance of the Secret Service. And Air Force One pilot Mark Tillman summed up the fear and confusion of the day when he recalled intelligence reports terrorists with rocket launchers were going to take out the plane less than an hour after the attack.

Even though anyone who lived through September 11 knows exactly how the day ultimately played out, hearing from those people whose against-the-clock decisions were pivotal makes for an utterly fascinating history lesson that I suspect will be regarded as the definitive account for generations to come.

Nothing sub-standard about Vigil

BBC One’s new submarine thriller Vigil feels tailor-made for the Sunday night slot that Line of Duty so successfully claimed as its own.

There’s been a suspicious death on a nuclear submarine – a body with a Line of Duty connection, no less – and Suranne Jones is the cop who’s brought on board investigate. And before you ask, yes of course she has a troubled back story.

Just like Line of Duty you can tell from the outset that this is one of those series that will drop its big plot twists in the last two minutes of each installment and that in about three episodes’ time it will all be getting so silly and far-fetched that you’ll feel secretly guilty for enjoying it so much.

Sad sequel to parents’ fight for justice

It was a good week for TV drama, with ITV’s new three-parter about the Stephen Lawrence murder premiering on Monday night.

Stephen was a sequel of sorts to Paul Greengrass’ award-winning 1999 film about the case and catches up with Neville and Doreen Lawrence in 2006 as they continue their fight for justice.

Sharlene Whyte as Doreen Lawrence, Steve Coogan as Clive Driscoll and Hugh Quarshie as Neville Lawrence.<br />Photo by ITV/LAURENCE CENDROWICZ/Shutterstock

Steve Coogan, who once again proves he’s as adept at drama as he is at comedy, played DCI Clive Driscoll, the cop who takes on the unenviable challenge of closing a case riddled with years of police failings.

Whereas Greengrass’ film positively pulsed with anger, Stephen was infused with sadness and grief at the years and years of suffering the family has endured.

Holiday horror story is one of the year’s best

In last week’s column, I praised the solidly-entertaining first episode of Sky Atlantic’s The White Lotus.

The White Lotus

I think that’s a bit unfair, because now that I’ve seen all six episodes I have no hesitation in calling it one of the year’s best.

Squirm-inducing, hilarious, moving, satirical, horrifying – it hit all these beats perfectly and got better and better as it went along.

Film of the week: Riders of Justice (Amazon Prime)

When soldier Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) returns home from the frontline to care for his teenage daughter following the death of his wife in a train crash, his world is turned upside down after discovering that the tragedy might be more than a simple accident.

From that intriguing premise director Anders Thomas Jensen weaves a meaningful revenge thriller that’s blackly comic one minute and ultra-violent the next.

Joining Markus on his quest for justice is a band of oddballs, including statistician Otto and tech nerds Lennart and Emmenthaler, who get most of laughs.

There are a few plot contrivances, but they can easily be waved off since chance and probability are central themes of the film.

For a film that features several scenes of eye-watering violence, you’ll be surprised how much heart this has.

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