"I was in MI5 just long enough to realise, you can do good or you can do well. Sooner or later they make you choose."
Adapting a TV series into a film is usually an uphill struggle. At the forefront of this struggle is convincing people that the film works on its own as well as a tie in (and in some cases, a finale to) the show itself. It seems that rather than accepting TV-like-states on out big screens, entertainment has made the opposite move and now television is becoming cinematic with the highest rated shows including Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. So can a small time spy series become an international thriller.
British Intelligence officer Harry Pearce is being blamed for the escape of a terrorist from a highly secure facility. Believing that the terrorist was being helped from within MI5 Pearce enlists an ex-agent (Kit Harrington) to catch a traitor and thwart an attacker.
I have to say that I was a fan of the Spooks TV series when it was still running. I think it deserves more credit for popularising the notion (used so often today) that major characters can be killed off randomly. Each year a new brand of recruits and agents would be introduced and after enduring certain amounts of betrayal and espionage would be either assassinated, blown up, killed in a deep fryer or even revealed to be identity thieves and try to sell military secrets before being caught and executed by his own organisation. The problem this presents for the film is that there’s only a limited number of related characters that audiences will want to see on the big screen. In fact, only one, that’s right Harry Pearce was the only one to make it through to the end. So I’ve just spoiled the series for you anyway.
Don’t mistake Spooks for a series that lacked talent, Hollywood heavyweights like Richard Armitage and David Oyelowo started their careers there. Kit Harrington joins the cast to add to the list of talent associated with the story and though he is a fine actor who gets the job done, there’s not much for him to do. Admittedly Pearce is assisted by ten seasons worth of backstory but he just inherently seems like the more interesting character, a veteran spy who must go off the grid may not be original but there’s always fun to be had with it. His resourceful and improvisational methods are interesting in most respects.
However, maybe as a marketing ploy or just attempting to rekindle the spirit of the show (Harry was the side character at the top, the ‘M’ character) it’s Harrington that gets the top billing. His character is hardly fleshed out and, though the film will try to convince you otherwise, it is certainly not character driven. Its substituted for multiple levels of conspiracy that, though intelligent at first, delve into ridiculousness towards the end. That is the main advantage of being in a shorter format, you couldn’t fit as many twists into one hour if you tried, so instead they remain intelligent. An extra forty minutes means you have to go further away from the realm of realism.
Though London is captured in fine fashion, there’s a definitive cinematic lacking within the film as a whole. Rather than seeing evidence of big budget action we just witness more high tech version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which is decent but there’s not enough class and elegance to carry off the same effect. It’s certainly not a spy thriller to match the likes of others coming out this year such as Spectre, Kingsman or UNCLE.
To give Spooks credit it is aware that it seems to work best on an intimate level and tries to keep the situation that way for as long as possible. Most of the time it suits the general tone and works rather well but at times, especially during a rather anti-climactic finale, there is evidence that either their ambition was lacking, or their budget was.
Sure to get diehard fans of the series excited, and probably pleased. But if you’ve never watched it or are expecting an ambitious thriller, or are not completely obsessed with Jon Snow, avoid.
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