Saturday, 9 May 2015

Spooks: The Greater Good (15)

For those of you who missed it, or live in a different country, Spooks was great - and by that I mean the original TV series.

Of course, our American cousins won't know it by that name. They got to watch a series called MI-5.

Nope, me neither.

Anyhoo, where were we?

Right, yes, Spooks. TV show. Now film. Now showing.

And if my screening today is anything to go by, attracting an audience fond of rustling their snack bags and very keen to sit in the seat they booked (which is fair enough, but maybe Odeon cinemas would like to pay someone to actually show people where that is, eh?).

Sorry, wandered off at a slight tangent there.

Spooks. Film. Yes. Quite.

Having lost track of the TV show (which ran for a mighty 10 seasons) quite early on, I was interested to see if you needed prior knowledge or if it stood alone.

Well, thanks to a large amount of expositional dialogue, it stands alone. Although I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Featuring the "legendary" Harry Pearce (played by Peter Firth, whose face looks more and more like a perplexed ham with every passing year), who featured in the whole TV run, the film has Harry legging it while trying to bring down a terrorist and prove there's a traitor in The Service.

Quite a lot to do for one man, but this is Harry Pearce.

He's joined by Kit Harrington (he of Game Of Thrones fame) - who has never been in the TV show - along with a further mix of new and old characters.

And all of this works well and is perfectly fine.

People run around, people get shot or punched, people turn on other people, other people turn out not to have turned on people - it's all as you'd expect and want from a lengthy special episode of a much-loved TV show.

And there-in lies the problem.

To make the transition from small to big screen, you want the whole thing to be bigger as well - bigger set pieces, bigger explosions, bigger runny jumpy bits.

And while they are bigger - in as much as the screen they're now on his huge - they feel like they've come straight from the TV show.

That's not a problem if that's what you're hoping for, but in hitting the big screen this spy drama is automatically now up against Bond, Bourne et al and so the shortcomings become apparent.

Along with the expositional waffle, the key plot points are signposted with all the subtlety of car crash.

At one point (the water bottle bit) the only thing that was missing was a giant arrow reminding you which bit director Bharar Nalluri wants you to pay attention to.

And then there's the writing.

Along with back-story being filled in during serious conversations, you're expected to believe experienced agents would [redacted] or find [redacted] in a sodding bin without thinking 'hey up, that's not right'.

That's not to say, strangely, that Spooks is a bad film. The fight scenes are gritty, there are a couple of good one-liners chucked in for a giggle and Harry Pearce is busy being Harry Pearce.

It just doesn't feel big, grand, epic - like a movie should.

It's an extended TV special shown on a screen bigger than you've got at home and played through a better sound system.

And, in the case of the Odeon, with the lights on.

It's not fast-paced enough, it's not slick enough, it's not subtle enough to hold it's own with the big spy films.

It feels, well, rather British.

And not the films we make now. The films we used to make, ironically, before Spooks was first broadcast.

The acting's great, the directing is functional without being exciting, the script feels a tad thrown together...

You get the idea.

This could have made a great TV episode. Maybe even a decent two-parter.

But as a film, sadly, it falls short of what we've now come to expect from big screen spy sorts.

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