You know nothing Jon Snow. Sorry… couldn’t resist. Yes that is Kit Harrington who stars alongside the cast of Spooks. I say ‘alongside the cast’ because of course Spooks is a popular TV series in the UK. Not popular to the same degree as Game of Thrones in which Kit also stars but enough for most people to have seen at least an episode here or there.
Not me though. I’ve never actually seen an episode. Not for any particular reason, it’s just never crossed my path. If, like me, you haven’t seen Spooks the TV series then I don’t think this film will particularly draw you in as a new viewer to the franchise. That said it is a perfectly watchable film; there are a couple of really clever plot points and the film has a decent but perhaps not fast enough pace yet it suffers from the fact that there is a whole lot of back story in the TV series and newcomers, like me, will miss the nuance of it all.
The film starts with Qasim (Elyes Gabel), an international terrorist en route to being deported to America, being broken out of MI5 custody much to the annoyance of the CIA. This leads to the MI5 chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) being disgraced for the failing.
As I noted before there is going to be a lot of nuance to the characters that I will miss and one of the most obvious is the films sub-plot. Harry believes that Qasim’s breakout was led by a mole in the MI5 who is working with the CIA in order to bring down the MI5 allowing the Americans to roll in and effectively own the British intelligence. Whilst the actual sub plot is fine and does add a layer of depth to the story it provides preciously little information about who in the CIA or MI5 wants this to happen and why.
I can’t shake the feeling that if you watched the TV series you would understand this troubled relationship between the two intelligence agencies a lot better. From my point of view though the MI5 messed up once and suddenly that’s almost enough to nearly close down the department? Yeah that doesn’t work for me.
This mole leads Harry to fake his own suicide and search out the help of Will Holloway (Kit Harrington) to dig through some mole hills. Will is an adept (but former) agent of the MI5 and shares a history with Harry. Again, I’m not sure if Kit was in the TV series previously but the relationship is well revealed throughout the film and leaves little interpretation so I can only assume this is a new character.
To be fair to the film; Will is a good character. He is a straight agent who will do what he thinks is right, not what he has been ordered to do and it’s very hard to get that archetype wrong so it won’t be a shock that I say he was my favourite character in the film. It obviously helps that he is younger so he can do more of the dynamic action scenes but Kit Harrington manages to hold an on screen presence that shows determination to get the job done, skepticism about his orders and a bitterness over loosing his job as an agent.
Thankfully there is a good chemistry between Kit and Peter which helps keep your interest throughout the film. The highlight is undoubtedly when Harry meets Will. Harry has left a breadcrumb trail which not only leads Will to him but is also designed to shake off Will’s accompanying and tailing agents. The breadcrumb trail is super clever and leaves you guessing why certain items have been left or things written down until the reveal where you can’t help but go “ah! that was clever”. It is absolutely what you want from an intelligent crime drama.
It’s a shame that this scene is at the start of the film because the rest of the film just isn’t as clever even though you are always hoping it will reach those heights again. this means that the rest of the film can feel all too mundane – almost as if the writer had a eureka moment with the meeting sequence and then got his mate to write the rest of it. Job done.
That’s perhaps a little harsh as the scripting, like most aspects of the film, isn’t bad at all. The plot is interesting and the set pieces are often impressive enough. These sequences are also shocking at times as certain characters are killed off which is something I wasn’t expecting. Whether these have played a large part in the series or not though I couldn’t tell you.
Still one of the best aspects of the film is the cinematography, which you don’t need prior experience to appreciate – you just need a pair of eyes really. The film captures some beautiful locations that have been filmed throughout London and it’s not just your normal views of Westminster or Canary Wharf – it even made me think it wouldn’t be so bad to live in London… but then I remembered concrete and noise and stress and always rushing so that thought soon passed.
Overall this film has some good things going for it but ultimately it’s just an extended TV show that relies on the viewer being already emotionally invested in at least some of the key characters. If you manage to overlook this then you are treated to a proficient crime drama that is very well shot.
- Kit Harrington plays an excellent lead character
- Beautifully shot
- When Harry met err… Willy
- Too dependent on prior knowledge of the series
- Cleverness of the script peaks too early
- Slightly too slow paced for some