Time is a difficult but gripping look into the British prison system

Sean Bean and Stephen Graham in Time.
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Jimmy McGovern’s three-part series expertly explores the guilt and corruption within the modern day prison system, led by two towering performances by Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. Taran Pannu reports.

Time is a difficult but gripping look into the British prison system

Jimmy McGovern’s latest project, Time, is a confronting prison drama that was captivating from beginning to end.

The three-part series mirrors the gripping and controversial storytelling of McGovern’s previous works, Cracker (1993-1996) and Broken (2017), in a mixture of a perfectly suspenseful script and a talented cast.

The mini-series follows the life of Mark Cobden, an introverted teacher who is sentenced to prison and forced to acclimatise to the harsh system. He forms a bond with officer Eric McNally, who is battling his own demons.

Mark is forced to confront the horrors that haunt him, understand and battle his guilt, all while trying to survive an extremely hostile prison environment.

The series is not for the faint-hearted, exploring brutal bashings and pain, warts and all. Those with the stomach for the confronting scenes will find a beautifully complex story about guilt and the choices we face in dire circumstances.

Time is a difficult but gripping look into the British prison system
Sean Bean in Time.

Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) delivers a sensitive portrayal of a man consumed by his past and trying to move forward, in what might be the greatest performance of his career.

In particular, the final episode allows Bean’s performance to convey all the weight of Mark’s arc without the need to say a single word.

Stephen Graham (Line of Duty) delivers another towering performance that has secured his title as one of the greatest living British actors of our time.

His character, Eric, has a tough exterior, but deep down is a touching man who will stop at nothing to keep his family safe.

Graham’s performance is at its peak in his final scene, where Eric is forced to come to terms with his new circumstances.

Time is a difficult but gripping look into the British prison system
Stephen Graham in Time

McGovern’s script and the plot of the series are so captivating that any acting duo could have successfully brought the show to life, but with both Bean and Graham at the helm, the show has been propelled to unbelievable heights. Their performances in Time have certainly solidified their names for next year’s BAFTA award nominations.

The show is beautifully shot, and the cinematography often pulls you into the confines of Mark’s prison cell.

The camera often leaves the actors on the edge of the frame, keeping the suspense heightened and forewarning that danger could be around every corner.

Sarah Warne’s musical score within the series expertly walks the line of tension and tragedy. In some scenes, she’ll have you on edge in fear, while in others, she’ll have you reaching for the tissue box.

Powered by a nuanced and rich script along with assured direction from Lewis Arnold, Time is a complex and heartfelt story that is sure to pull on the heartstrings if you are brave enough to overcome the confronting subject matter.