When the veil is lifted : The Tribune India

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When the veil is lifted

When the veil is lifted



Director: Damon Thomas and Daina Reid

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Yumna Marwan, Dali Benssalah, Josh Charles and Thibault de Montalembert

Nonika Singh

SPECIAL agents trying to bust a terrorist cell… you try hard to supress that yawn! For haven’t you  seen similar premise unfolding in more than one web series. But let it be known, The Veil is not your run-of-the-mill spy thriller. What sets the drama apart is not just the fact that both the terror mastermind and the master strategist spy are women of steel.

It helps immensely that both the characters, MI6 agent Imogen Salter and Adilah El Idrissi, are beautifully fleshed out and enacted even more brilliantly by the two lead actresses —

Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss of The Handmaid’s Tale fame and Lebanese actress Yumna Marwan, respectively. There is a mystery around both of them, an inscrutable enigma.

The first few episodes keep the suspense going. Is Adilah, mother to a young daughter, the monster the CIA agent Max Peterson (Josh Charles) believes her to be? But as Imogen says, ‘ You see, it’s not my job to think of her as a monster, or a saint. It’s my job to get her to tell me what she knows’.

Rather, soon after she extracts Adilah from a Turkish-Syrian refugee camp in a daring onewoman mission, it’s about how fast she can extract the truth from her. What unfolds hereafter is a strange bonding between the two. Imogen is a pro at making people repose faith in her and talk.

By the fifth episode, she is yet to succeed in her mission and Adilah is certainly not singing like a canary. But the series has some wonderful songs packed in background (and credits) and fantabulous cinematography by Bonnie Elliott. If jumping countries from France to Turkey the camera captures the beauty of locales it moves into, creator Steven Knight who earlier gave us the amazing slow-burn and captivating Peaky Blinders makes you hold your breath at more than one juncture. Most series about terrorism are accused of being Islamophobic. No doubt, the terror group on radar is ISIS and possess the same jihadi junoon.

Two are sacrificed while transferring the lethal chemical they intend to take to the shores of America. But then we have Malik Amar (Dali Benssalah), an agent with French intelligence agency DGSE, who even has a romantic dalliance with Imogen. He happens to be a Muslim of Algerian descent too. Indeed, his religion is held against him by Max who believes in pulling all the stops, even flouting rules in a country in which he has no jurisdiction.

The beauty of the episodic series that dropped every Tuesday on Disney+Hotstar with the finale set for today is not how it will peak, but how it holds your attention all through with sharp writing by Knight himself, equally sharp editing by Hunter M. Via and Nikki McChristie, and the grey areas of humanity it explores.

The fascinating even if a trifle verbose face-off between Imogen and Adilah in the fifth episode present both sides of the argument. ‘Millions of people have shitty lives, they don’t join a terrorist group,’ argues Imogen. And Adilah’s counter is ‘It’s a problem only when it happens to your people on your land.’ Clearly, how the world looks depends upon the vantage point from where we see it. Even though one of the pithy dialogues goes, ‘The best lies are mostly true’, watch it to understand how truth is always shrouded and terror has more than one face.