Is the thought of hanging - staring mortality in the face - worse than death? Timothy Spall, playing Albert Pierrepoint (the most prolific British hangman of the twentieth century), tests the theory. An expert in sudden death (always by neck-break, never strangulation), his ambition is to be the most efficient hangman in Britain ("I want to bust 13 seconds with this one"). This reflects his increasingly desperate attempt to treat it like any other job - and leads to him to Nuremberg to dangle 47 Nazi war criminals in one week. But for Pierrepoint, like the convicted, there's a price to be paid.
That it's made by Granada is obvious. Grinding, austere and seemingly shot using 'period-issue' ITV cameras set to 'rather depressing', it won't be to everyone's tastes. Yet with images that stay with you, this is unsettling, haunting and powerful stuff. Prepare to stare death in the face.