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Spooks: The Greater Good Review

"A decent TV spin-off"

The BBC’s Spooks (MI-5) is the latest British TV show to join the trend of popular shows from the nation being adapted into movies. But for every success like The Inbetweeners and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, we get a Mrs Brown’s Boys: D’Movie and Keith Lemon: The Movie. So how does Spooks: The Greater Good fare?

Britain’s domestic intelligence service MI5 is thrown into crisis after a terrorist leader Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel) escapes from their custody when in transit to America. The head of the counter-terrorism section Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is blamed for the failure and ends up going missing. Fearing that Pearce has gone rogue, MI5 bring in an ex-agent, Will Holloway (Kit Harrington) to find his former handler. But Pearce believes there is a traitor within MI5 who wanted to destroy the organization.
spooks the greater good still
Spooks: The Greater Good aims to both please fans of the show and be accessible for newcomers and it manages to obtain this delicate balance. The movie brings back much of its creative team, Bharat Nalluri comes back to direct the movie and writers on the final two seasons, Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent returned to the writing duties. Peter Firth has remained a constant presence, being in all 10 seasons, yet most of the cast are newcomers to the franchise.

Storylines from the end of the series regarding Pearce are followed-up, but for the most part prior knowledge of Spooks is not required. Tim McInnerny reprises his role of Oliver Mace and all you need to know about him is that he is a slimy, ruthless bastard. Harrington, Tuppence Middleton and Eleanor Matsuura inject some young blood into the franchise, playing new characters, Harrington flexing some action muscles. David Harewood and Jennifer Ehle add some gravitas in senior roles, Harewood stretching himself by playing another character in a position of authority.
spooks the greater good plane
Firth continues his presence as Pearce, showing him to be a wily fella, having to use all his wit and ingenuity to avoid capture and discover the mole. The movie follows the wronged agent having to go rogue template and does it to a satisfactory level as the plot twists and turns and characters double, triple and quadruple cross each other. There is plenty of espionage skullduggery involving secret messages and meetings, safe houses and dead-drops.

The story for the movie is an extended episode – MI5 having to stop a terrorist committing acts in Britain and a wider look at elements of internal politics in the intelligence service and a conspiracy that threatens MI5 as an organization. When Spooks was first created it was envisioned to be a realistic look at MI5, intending to be a look at an unfunded agency after the Cold War: that changed after 9/11. The show had grounded plots in the first two seasons, looking at the personal struggles of a spy and realistic plots. But as the series progressed and the main cast chopped and changed, the plots became more ridiculous: examples are MI5 being assigned to investigate a child disappearance as part of a wider plot to strip a rock star of his knighthood, the CIA’s liaison officer is really an eco-terrorist, a Russian oligarch tries to buy and dismantle the NHS and a whole series based on the CIA looking to antagonize Iran to justify an invasion. Fortunately the movie is nowhere near as idiotic as these plots.

The basic plot has a similar template to Skyfall in that both MI5 and MI6 suffer a humiliation and face a threat to their very existence. In Spooks: The Greater Good, the threat comes from the CIA, wanting to take to over British intelligence because of the failure. The idea of distrusting the Americans is nothing new to the series, but it worked a lot better during the Bush administration when people in Britain saw the government being a puppet of the Americans and there was animosity towards America due to the nation’s foreign policy. It is not as impactful now that Bush and his administration is gone nor is there even an American character actively trying to take over the organization.
kit harington spooks
Spooks: The Greater Good clearly had a budget and the filmmakers wanted to show it off. There are plenty of aerial shots of London, showing landmarks like The Gherkin, The Shard, Whitehall and Oxford Circus and shooting on location in London and Berlin, using locations like National Theatre and the West End. The action is solid, the opening scene being the strongest where terrorists on motorbikes break their leader out of MI5 custody. Most of the running and shooting action is handled competently and has the virtue of being more bloody than some of its contemporaries. Spooks: The Greater Good is far from challenging the likes of Bond, Bourne and Mission: Impossible on the level action and some of the running scenes looked like they were shot by a skeleton crew but for a solely British production it is a decent enough and plays on the fact that MI5 is a much more underfunded organization, having to deal with limited resources and spies having to more creative when on operations.

Spooks: The Greater Good is on the upper scale of recent adaptation of British TV shows, managing to give fans a continuation of the show and continuing the look and tone yet is still able to allow newcomers into the world. It is a solid entry into the spy thriller genre, even if the movie does feel like an extended episode despite the filmmakers best efforts to make it cinematic. But calling itself “The Greater Good” will make some people think of this clip.

Rating
7.0
Pros
  • Able to appeal to fans and newcomers to the series
  • Peter Firth still delivers as Harry Pearce
  • A strong opening action sequence
Cons
  • The plot is just an extended episode
  • Kit Harington is a bland lead

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