HBO offers intimate look at terrorism

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Last October, Chechen rebels seized a Moscow theater during the performance of a musical and took more than 700 audience members hostage. Their bold raid, the hostage drama and the Russian military's efforts to end the siege unfold in the documentary "Terror in Moscow" (6 p.m., HBO).

Featuring first-person interviews with survivors of the ordeal, as well as remarkable video shot inside the theater by the terrorists themselves, "Moscow" offers a disturbing and intimate glimpse of both the hostages' and terrorists' experience.

When a masked gunman took the stage during a musical number, several audience members thought that it was part of the performance. One survivor considered it a daring, "trendy" piece of theater. But after clearly shaken concession-stand workers were forced at gunpoint into the audience, the gravity of the situation became apparent.

The terrorists advised their captive audience that they had wired 19 veiled women with explosives and threatened to blow up the auditorium if Russian troops were not withdrawn from their homeland.

The following days progressed in nightmarish fashion, with hungry, frightened hostages forced to use the orchestra pit as a public lavatory. As the hours ticked by, some of the Muslim women become emotional and begin to feel like hostages themselves.

Outside the theater, the Russian military gathered and prepared for an innovative strike that would kill all of the terrorists, but also take the lives of more than 100 hostages.

Never before has a crime of this magnitude been so dramatically documented while in progress. This remarkable video, combined with survivors' firsthand accounts, make "Terror in Moscow" a gripping and emotional experience from beginning to end.

Tonight's other highlights

Late night

Denzel Washington and the New York Philharmonic appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno greets Robert Downey Jr., Tess Drake and Blue Man Group on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).