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Spooks: The Greater Good - DVD Review

Spooks: The Greater Good

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

GIVEN the enduring popularity of Spooks as a TV series it was probably only a matter of time before it made its way to the big screen. But while the film version is a solid genre entry, it also struggles to leave it’s small screen roots entirely behind.

In its prime, Spooks provided a ground-breaking UK competitor for the likes of 24 for the way in which it regularly sacrificed key characters and delivered myriad twists and turns. It was widely considered one of the best at doing so.

Ten seasons and a couple of years on, this big screen version finds itself competing with the likes of Bourne and Bond on cinematic terms as well as even more complex and surprising TV rivals such as Homeland. It’s little wonder it has its work cut out.

On the plus side, Bharat Nalluri’s film retains its most enigmatic central character in Peter Firth’s MI5 boss Harry Pearce and brings in one of the most promising young British stars of the moment, Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington.

It also does a fairly decent job of maximising a bigger budget with several set pieces (including a Heathrow set chase and a South Bank sniper scenario) generating the kind of excitement required from the genre. The moral and ethical complexity of the spy world is also well examined, particularly for those trying to work out the greater good of the film’s subtitle.

But the film is hindered somewhat by some very loose plotting, which relies on laughable contrivance on at least two occasions. It’s here that the film occasionally feels like a TV movie with fancy dressing.

The plot in question picks up as a dangerous terrorist, Qasim (Elyes Gabel), is snatched mid-transit in London from the clutches of MI5 as they are attempting to hand him over to the CIA.

The perceived failure brings even more pressure on beleaguered boss Pearce, who subsequently goes dark in a bid to recover Qasim, prevent an imminent attack and flush out the traitor he believes is working within his own organisation it to discredit and disband it.

Along for the ride is former agent Will Holloway (Harington), who must also work out who to trust in order to bring Qasim back into custody.

The ensuing race against time moves at a fairly slick pace and works best when putting the characters of Pearce and Holloway front and centre. Firth, in particular, is a past master at tapping into the emotional complexity of playing the spy game and revels in the opportunity of playing this out on the big screen. His Pearce is an intriguing enigma: seemingly devoted to serving his country yet capable of some highly dubious acts.

Harington, too, brings the same brooding intensity to Holloway as he does to Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. The two work well together.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Tuppence Middleton’s rookie spy, Gabel’s terrorist or several of the MI5 top brass, who would all have benefited from greater shading and more screen-time (even if some of the bigger names turn out to be surprisingly expendable).

If you can overlook the film’s weaker elements, however, then Spooks still entertains consistently enough to make it a genre entry worth investing time in, whether or not you’ve previously been a fan of the series.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: September 28, 2015