Spooks: The Greater Good Review
Harry still knows a trick or two, but is it enough to save the day?
Can all the hype from the hugely successful TV series Spooks transcend to the big screen or is it a case of too little too late?The task of directing the film follow-up to the final season of the TV series rests with Bharat Nalluri. He earnt his stripes working on Spooks, which ran from 2002 to 2011 on the BBC. Reuniting with writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, who also worked on the TV series, Nalluri returns to the world of secret service to bring us this feature length, made for the big screen spy thriller. The film opens with MI5 agents escorting Qasim, a terrorist played by Elyes Gabels, through London on a typically expected rainy day. Overseeing the operation within the safety of MI5 headquarters is Head of Counter-Terrorism, Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth). Harry is left to watch on helplessly as Qasim escapes MI5 custody with the aid of armed men. Harry is blamed for this embarrassing failure but believes that someone within the secret service helped orchestrate Qasim’s escape.So Harry goes off the grid to unearth a conspiracy that he is convinced will result in the dismantling of MI5. With Qasim on the loose, Harry missing and facing the threat of potential terrorist attacks in London, MI5 boss, Oliver Mace (Tim McInnerny) calls decommissioned agent Will Holloway (Kit Harrington) back into action. Tasked with trying to locate Harry on behalf of MI5, Will soon discovers that not everything is as clear cut as it appears and is forced to decide whose side he wants to work on. Harry who has now gone rogue tries to locate Qasim by himself, believing he holds the key to exposing the double agent/s within the secret service, which will ultimately clear his sullied name. Having burnt his bridges within MI5, Harry needs Will’s help to secure Qasim’s cooperation and to put a stop to the traitor within the secret service.
Whilst a few scenes are set in Berlin and Moscow, Spooks: The Greater Good is largely filmed in central London. Nalluri delivers this portrayal of the city through a series of stylised ariel scenes depicting London’s skyline which really centres the film's location. While these shots are a far cry from television, the use of close ups throughout the film and the focus on dialogue harks back to the film's television roots. The writers focus on the dialogue between characters, which adds depth, especially between the protagonists Harry and Will.
The emotional history between Will and Harry aids in developing the relationship and helps towards understanding the motives behind their characters. Harrington is portrayed as the main character in Spooks: The Greater Good but Firth really steals the lime light, no doubt aided by his previous involvement with the TV series. That's not to say that Harrington’s performance is terrible, far from it, Harrington plays the part of a slightly renegade agent very well and I’m sure his youthful injection into the franchise will go down well in gaining younger audiences.
Qasim’s character is a comparatively small part within the film despite him being at the centre of the plot as the story progresses. Once he escapes from MI5 custody his part is mostly left in the background and only really used to drive the story forward from Harry and Will’s point of view. It’s clear Spooks: The Greater Good is shown through the perspective of Harry and Will and therefore there isn’t really much room to gain a true understanding of Qasim or the motivations behind his actions which does tend to leave his character feeling a bit empty.
Well orchestrated chases, hand to hand combat and the odd envelope under the door give Spooks: The Greater Good the potential to earn a place between the Bourne and Bond films.
Alongside Firth, Tim McInnerny reprises his role as Oliver Mace, Head of MI5 and the only other surviving cast member from the TV series used in the big screen translation. The rest of the cast fill in the gaps and fit in well within the film's storyline offering a fairly decent portrayal of MI5 bigwigs and new recruits trying to work their way to the top. Keeping in line with the TV series mentality of killing off main characters, Spooks: The Greater Good ensures that no one is really safe, a trait I’m sure fans of the show will look forward to.
It’s refreshing to see a spy thriller focus on the narrative and really strive to push the story forward through character development. All too frequently we are shown a plethora of ultra glossy, fast cut action interspersed with scantily clad women. Yes, there are some chase scenes in Spooks: The Greater Good but that’s not what the film is focused on. Instead it remains true to its television roots in delivering numerous plot twists, some of which are predictable, but nonetheless still manage to instil a certain level of intensity to the film.
As you would expect with this genre, there are several tense and gripping chase scenes which are enhanced by the deep and booming soundtrack. All the tropes you would expect to see from a Bond or Bourne film are present but in a more diluted and somewhat refined form. Overall Spooks: The Greater Good is a decent enough spy film based on the TV series, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. In places it manages to pack a punch but otherwise it just tends to feel like a dragged out, elongated TV episode. Unlike typical secret agent films which end with a bang, Spooks: The Greater Good in a sense feels like it left quietly through the back door. One can only assume this is to leave that particular door open for possible sequels.
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