Fast-paced movie that picks up the TV series’ espionage story lines as the disgraced head of MI5 goes rogue and hunts a terrorist on the loose in London and a traitor in ‘the firm’.
London Callingby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Fans of the long-running television series will be on home ground with this big-screen incarnation, which assumes prior knowledge of the characters and the set-up. Those who come to it fresh will be thrown in at the deep end, wondering who on earth everyone is and what’s going on. They should have no problem in quickly getting up to speed, however, and the film is an enjoyable romp.
The man controlling operations in the futuristic incident room is Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), the Intelligence Chief in charge of MI5. The film opens with him overseeing a dramatic set piece – a bodged transfer by MI5 to the CIA of a terrorist in custody. He takes a decision to release the terrorist in order to save civilian lives and that leads to his resignation in disgrace. But instead of slinking away in ignomy, he fakes his suicide and goes rogue, going undercover to track him down and unmask the traitor responsible within M15.
Decommissioned agent Will Holloway (an athletic, sexy, permanently sprinting Kit Harington, Jon Snow in Game of Thrones), Harry’s young protégé, is recalled by éminence grise Sir Oliver Mace (Tim McInnerny in his most sinister, superior mode) to track Harry down. Will follows the complex trail Harry lays from London to the Kent coast, to Berlin, to Moscow and back again to London, until he eventually joins forces with him. And London has never looked lovelier as it’s revealed in locations ranging from the big tourist sights, to a stunning aerial shot of Oxford Circus, and inside a West End theatre to a seedy internet café in Brixton. It culminates in a shoot-out on Waterloo Bridge by a sniper on one of the levels of the National Theatre on the South Bank.
But though Spooks does its best to be contemporary – its escaped terrorist Qasim (Elyes Gabel) is generically Islamic and is planning to blow up central London – it’s hard these days for any fiction to compete with real-life horrors. Take away some of the hi-tech gadgetry and Spooks has a rather dated Cold War feel. That said, it’s still a fast-moving, fun, action movie, whether you know the back story or not. What’s missing is the emotional investment in the characters that comes from watching their development over several series on television when they’re taken out of context like this. Interestingly, the film’s director Bharat Nalluri also directed the first and last episodes of Spooks, and screenwriters Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent also worked on earlier episodes of the TV series. They must have revelled in the film’s noticeably big on-screen budget and the freedom it gave them to create a glossy new adventure.
Spooks is released on 8th May 2015 in the UK