Puzzle Doctor At The Movies – Spooks: The Greater Good

SpooksSpooks was a UK TV series that ran for nine series and ended on a pretty definitive ending. Or, if you’re in the US, MI-5 was a UK TV series, etc. But recently it returned in the cinema, of all places.

A dangerous terrorist escapes from MI-5 custody during a routine prisoner transport and the blame falls on the chief of intelligence, Harry Pearce. Pearce is convinced that an insider helped Qasim to escape and goes on the run to try and prove matters. He recruits an ex-agent, Will Holloway, someone he decommissioned for a reason known only to himself, as he needs someone to trust. But can Will trust Harry? Can Harry trust Will? And can Harry and/or Will trust anybody else?

With Qasim plotting a major strike on London (where else?) and MI-5 hunting both Harry and Will, can things possibly get any worse? Hint: yes.

Spooks was an odd series. I think I enjoyed it, but I’m pretty sure I zoned out in the middle of some episodes. In fact, the usual viewing pattern for the series for me was watch episodes 1 & 2 when broadcast, waiting a few weeks without missing much and then binge-watching the rest of the series. Generally, episodes 1 & 2 and n and (n-1) were gripping TV and the other episodes, it was mostly the subplots that intrigued me, rather than the terrorist-of-the-week.

But the production values and the performances were great. Notably Peter Firth as Harry Pearce, the only cast member present from beginning to end, but generally, the main cast, especially in the early episodes were memorable. It faded a little with the ridiculous death of Miranda Raison’s character and the stupidity of the secret of Richard Armitage’s character. It took this film to remind me that Lara Pulver was in the last series – she’s one of the four (I think) cast members to make it into this film, along with Peter Firth, Tim McInnerny as a slimy government type by the name of Mace and… the last one’s probably a spoiler – can’t remember if they’re on the trailer or not. It’s not Matthew MacFadyen, by the way – don’t get too excited.

In fact, don’t get too excited about the film in general. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film with a cinema release with such an uncinematic feel. It basically feels like a double episode of the TV series with no sense of being scaled up for the big screen. The stakes are no higher than the average end of series story, although Harry does push things further than previously. But the biggest problem is Will Holloway, our hero. He’s just so boring. Kit “Jon Snow” Harrington does the best with the material he’s given, but there’s not much there. The more interesting “Spooks” are the female characters played by Tuppence Middleton and Eleanor Matsuura, but their screen time is limited unfortunately. The focus is almost entirely on Will’s point of view as he intersects with the other characters.

There are other issues – Harry’s plan seems extreme even for him. Jennifer Ehle seems to be doing an odd accent. Qasim seems to be doing several odd accents. The casting of Kit Harrington had me spending an inordinate amount of time waiting for someone to tell him that he “knows nothing”. And the title – seriously, why would anyone use the phrase “The Greater Good” after Hot Fuzz…

I think if this had been a Christmas special on the TV, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more. I think if I’d actually seen it on the big screen, I’d have felt ripped off. Renting it… it was OK. Peter Firth is always very watchable, but this was a bit of a misfire. Spooks fans should give it a look. If you haven’t seen the show, I’d go and watch that first. Worth A Look for fans.

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2 comments

  1. We watched the first season (or maybe first two seasons) on DVD, but tired of the nonstop, one-pitch hysteria. That might have been less of a problem had we seen the episodes weekly, but as the DVD set was from the library we were watching ’em one and two a night. The movie sounds quite fun, though, to judge from your description, one that we might as well wait for until it comes on HBO or whatever.

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  2. I watched the first 5 seasons I think and then started to lose interest but did watch the finale, whcih i liked. Sorry to hear that this was a bit blah – it id seem to come out of nowhere and I’m really surprised it got made …

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