Director: Bharat Nalluri
Starring: Kit Harington, Peter Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Tuppence Middleton, Tim McInnerny, David Harewood
Written by: Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent
Running Time: 104 mins
Release date: 8th May 2015
TV spin-offs (popular shows that were given big screen treatments) always suffered from the same problem: taking something set in one place and expanded it. Hence, most of the time, these shows involved the characters we love watching for half an hour, going on holiday and causing some form of havoc somewhere. Even the more recent TV spin-offs (The Inbetweeners, Borat etc) still use that same format. Not so with Spooks: The Greater Good. Spooks was already a fairly big production about spies in London, so it would only seem natural to bring it to cinemas. Only trouble is, it would need to be a whole lot bigger.
International terrorist Qasim, while being transported for a routine handover, escapes, leaving MI-5 Intelligence Chief Harry Pearce disgraced and out of the service. Yet he believes that someone at the top sanctioned the escape. In order to find Qasim, he has to turn to ex agent Will Holloway to help him, even though Harry was responsible for Will’s departure from the force.
Those who may never have seen the BBC TV series shouldn’t worry too much about not understanding it. While there is the occasional mention of characters from the past, this is a stand-alone story and so going in with little knowledge won’t harm the enjoyment. And it is very enjoyable in that double-crossing, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy way. In fact, while it has ambitions of being like The Bourne Identity (heights it never really reaches) it is, in fact, rather more old-fashioned, reminiscent of the Cold War spy films, where you trust no one.
Director Bharat Nalluri keeps things moving at a decent pace, with fairly long scenes of explanation interspersed with lots of running and shooting. His real trump card is the use of locations. Instead of giving us another tourist’s guide to the capital, he takes us to those lesser seen places, which, while effective, also causes some distractions, especially those who know the city well. You find yourself trying to pinpoint exactly where they are.
The other problem with the film is its size. Spooks has always been a fairly hefty production so it would need to increase massively for it to fill the big screen. Sadly, it fails. What we get is a decent thriller that could have quite easily filled the Christmas schedules as a one-off special. When you look at the likes of Bourne or Bond or Mission: Impossible, they look like event movies. This just looks like a TV film. Even the plot, which isn’t the most original, comes across like a rejected script from the series.
Yet it does have some pluses. The complexity of who is stabbing who in the back is intriguing and some of the set pieces do work well. It’s also filled with actors who know their craft. Peter Firth, the only consistency left, returns as Harry and shows us that he’s an actor who deserves greater recognition and more interesting roles. He commands and dominates the whole film, leaving the audience guessing whether he is being truthful or not.
Kit Harington, he of Game Of Thrones fame, is a fine and believable action hero, although he still has along way to go to be up there with the Matt Damons and Danel Craigs of this world. Good to see Jennifer Ehle back in a lead role as one of the heads of MI-5. After years of playing supporting parts in American blockbusters, the former Elizabeth Bennett is cold, calm and calculating with that smile that never tells the full story.
Spooks: The Greater Good is an okay spy thriller that fans of the series will lap up. For the rest of us, it does a reasonable job of being entertaining while its playing but that’s about it. I longed for it to be a big, spectacular adventure that could place it on the map of other spy flicks but alas, it just doesn’t deliver. Instead it feels like its holding back. Maybe next time, if there is a next time, we could get a much bigger production. It is cinema, after all. Use it wisely.