Spooks: The Greater Good
2.5/5   US title: MI-5
dir Bharat Nalluri
scr Jonathan Brackley, Sam Vincent
prd Jane Featherstone, Stephen Garrett, Ollie Madden
with Kit Harington, Peter Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Tim McInnerny, Elyes Gabel, David Harewood, Tuppence Middleton, Lara Pulver, Eleanor Matsuura, Elliot Levey, Michael Wildman, Ronan Summers
release UK 8.May.15
15/UK Pinewood 1h44
Spooks: The Greater Good
Saving London: Firth and Harington

ehle mcinnerny middleton
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Spooks: The Greater Good With its straightforward script and hastily sketched characters, this spy thriller would feel much more at home on a television screen. It's a topical story with a strongly engaging cast, but in the absence of subtext or filmmaking artistry, it's so blunt that neither director Nalluri nor the screenwriters manage to surprise us.

After the terrorist Qasim (Gabel) escapes during a routine handover between MI5 and the CIA, the British intelligence boss Harry (Firth) goes rogue to chase him down. So MI5 bosses (Ehle, McInnerny and Levey) recall former agent Will (Harington), because of his long history with Harry. Working with another agent, June (Middleton), Will tracks down Harry and begins a dangerous cooperation with him, making deals with Qasim while trying to fend off both a terrorist attack on London and the CIA takeover of MI5.

On paper, the plot sounds complex and twisty, but it plays out in an oddly linear way that never quite makes the most of every wrinkle in the story. Everything is rather matter-of-fact, almost like we're ticking off the checklist of a spy thriller: chase through a crowded space, quick trip abroad, bombing, ambush, betrayal and so on. But none of these characters seem to have a proper life of his or her own; they merely exist in this particular episode, and even the past events that drive them are only vaguely scribbled in.

Harington has a magnetic screen presence, scanning every situation for signs of what is true and managing to generate a hint that there's something going on beyond his job. But no one's personal life is actually depicted. The subliminal flirtation between Will and June never bubbles to the surface, although Harington and Middleton do what they can to suggest it. Firth adds shattered emotional urgency to his role, but never gets the chance to properly depict Harry's family-like bond with Will.

Along the way, there are some nice touches, including the repeated theme that as a spy you can either do good or do well. So the climax is an intriguing collision of true believers and actual good guys. But the screenwriters never deepen the story enough to make it resonant, so most sequences feel rushed and unconvincing. And Nalluri directs the film in a bland way that feels edited for the American TV censors, an unintentional irony for a film about a British agency at risk of being co-opted by the Yanks.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 9.Mar.15

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