Film Review: Spooks: The Greater Good

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Spooks: The Greater Good is a slick spy drama that’s worth a watch but disappointingly struggles to fill the big screen

After ten impressive series, 86 cracking episodes and an average of around 6m viewers in the UK, I’m certainly not alone in thinking that Spooks was one of the greatest TV dramas ever made. The BBC1 drama based on the UK’s domestic security intelligence agency (MI5) captured audiences across the world with its fast-paced, slick and gritty storylines, nurturing some of TV’s best rising stars including David Oyelowo (Selma, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Richard Armitage (The Hobbit), Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice, Ripper Street), Rupert Penry-Jones (Silk, Whitechapel) and Hermione Norris (Wire in the Blood). No surprise then that the show’s creators decided to expand the award-winning concept into cinematic horizons.

Based on the award-winning TV series, Spooks: The Greater Good takes the show’s conflicted characters, gritty storylines and fast-paced plot and transfers it onto the big screen. The film throws us straight into the action when major terrorist Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel) escapes from MI5 custody in a nail-biting opening scene that’s equal to anything in the TV show. Head of Counter-terrorism and series mainstay Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is quickly blamed for the failure and forced to resign. Believing Qasim was helped by someone inside MI5, Harry goes underground so the agency calls in his former protégé Will Holloway (Kit Harington) to track him down. Cue a series of high-action, nail biting scenes as Harry and Will work together to identify the traitor and try prevent a major terrorist attack.

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Well written, thrillingly staged and with plenty of plot twists to keep you on your toes, Spooks: The Greater Good is as good, if not better, as the TV series, although its appeal is lost a little on the big screen. Written by Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent (series 9 and 10 regulars), the script cannily weaves the personal conflicts and moral dilemmas of the characters (particularly Harry) into a spy-thriller framework, whilst maintaining its familiar, ruthless reputation for fast-paced action, killing off a few main characters along the way.

Bharat Nalluri (who helmed the first and last-ever TV episodes) does a fantastic job of directing the action, shooting the London and Berlin locations with a cinematic sheen. But it’s the moral dilemmas of the conflicted characters that truly propels the story forward.

The majority of the action rests with Kit Harington as Harry’s former protégé Will Holloway. The Game of Thrones actor pulls through as the sulky former agent torn between his loyalty for the agency and his trust for Harry, although he lacks the screen presence of his predecessors Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Penry-Jones and Richard Armitage. In addition to Peter Firth as Harry Pearce, a few other familiar faces also show up including Tim McInnerny as Oliver Mace, Lara Pulver as Erin Watts and Hugh Simon as diligent data analyst Malcolm.

Jennifer Ehle’s performance as  MI5 boss Geraldine Maltby is particularly worth a mention, although her character could have been given a little more screen time. Homeland’s David Harewood is also impressive as Warrender even if his appearance in the film is short lived.

Well written, slick and with an ethically murky script that honours the TV series, Spooks: The Greater Good is a slick spy drama that is certainly worth a watch even if it disappointingly struggles to fill the big screen.

3 out of 5 stars

Spooks: The Greater Good is released in UK cinemas from Friday 8 May