Director: Bharat Nalluri
Starring: Peter Firth, Kit Harington, Jennifer Ehle
Running time: 104 minutes
It’s always a bit risky to adapt a TV show for cinema. It can go brilliantly (Alan Partridge) or the magic that made the programme can be lost in its big screen transfer (Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie/Dad’s Army). Fortunately, after several years away from the TV screen, Spooks: the Greater Good takes its original elements and magnifies them, with its bigger budget being cleverly used to provide the expensive bits fans used to have to imagine. It’s pure cinema gold.
Beginning with a fiercely tense hijack scene, the audience are thrown in at the deep end. MI5 are trying to transport a suspect across London, but heavy traffic means the convoy is brought to a standstill. The police helicopter is mysteriously diverted away, whilst the group is suddenly approached by a gang on motorbikes who are brandishing machine guns.
Head of the Counter-Terrorism, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), is forced to make a choice; release the suspect to potentially commit further atrocities or allow innocent civilians to be killed there and then. As the movie develops, it becomes clear that the hijack incident had been co-ordinated by someone attempting to discredit the service and when a terrorist attack occurs in a London theatre, it is obvious they will stop at nothing to get what they want. This may all sound terribly over-dramatic, but it’s genuinely thrilling cinema.
This being a British film, it’s clear that it doesn’t have the same budget as its glossy American counterparts. But it doesn’t need it. Spooks: the Greater Good is in some ways a traditional bit of British espionage. The focus isn’t on massive explosions and gratuitous violence (although both do feature in small doses). The film is more content to gradually ramp up the tension, follow the clues and make the viewer care about the characters, before their inevitable demise.
Happily, the film is completely consistent with the TV programme. The writers (Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent) wrote some of the show’s best episodes and remain faithful to the format, the fans and the characters. I don’t want to ruin the surprises that happen, but fans won’t be disappointed with the guest appearances of a few old favourites. Fortunately, none of this will impact at all upon any new viewer; all the plot points are self-contained, it is just smaller character moments that are more enjoyable if you know their background. New additions to the cast include Game of Thrones’s Kit Harington as Will Holloway and Jennifer Ehle as the mysterious Geraldine Maltby. Although much of the pre-publicity focused on Harington’s role, I’m pleased to report that this is very much Peter Firth’s film. His brilliant performance holds the film together and it’s good to see a film with a 61 year-old lead actor that isn’t about finding late-in-life love. Age is shown to be no boundary, which is how it should be.
Spooks: the Greater Good offers something for everyone. It’s exciting, dramatic and, perhaps most uniquely, British. It highlights the success of the TV programme and expands upon that world. It’s beautifully filmed across Europe, but with a focus on the real London. The chases across the capital and some of the set pieces are extraordinarily well done. I’d recommend this film without question to anyone wanting an enthralling cinematic experience. I just hope there’ll be a sequel.