Spooks: Big-screen upgrade for MI5 agents fails to be a hit job

Millennials can’t compete with grizzled ex-Cold War spies

Spooks

Film Review Most serious spy movies seem to be pretty much the same these days: a parkour-fuelled, adrenaline-pumping, extremely violent rollercoaster through an occasionally thin plot, such as the Bourne and modern Bond franchises. However, every so often, you get the quiet, studied manipulations of a film like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, where an agent’s brains are worth infinitely more than their brawn.

Spooks: The Greater Good would seem to fit neatly into this latter category, with the same morally tortuous decision-making, intrigue and shock deceptions that made the TV series such a hit, all orchestrated by puppet-master Harry Pearce (Peter Firth).

Unfortunately, the powers-that-be decided that in order to amp things up a bit, they’d get in hunk of the month Kit Harington to do some running and jumping around.

It’s not that Harington can’t act, he’s certainly well capable of that. It’s just that he and his character, Will Holloway, don’t really fit in with the deft manoeuvrings and astute intelligence of an old Cold-War pro like Harry, who translates perfectly to the big screen, taking all his emotional baggage, cold calculation and ultimate love-of-country with him. He promptly leaves all the baby spies in the dust.

Long after even the audience has guessed at what’s going on, Will and his fellow youthful spooks, June (Tuppence Middleton) and Hannah (Eleanor Matsuura), are still floundering around about 10 moves behind. They come across like children playing with guns in comparison to Harry and other members of the older crew, such as head of MI5 Oliver Mace, played to a T by Tim McInnerny, and fellow leading spy Geraldine Maltby (Jennifer Ehle).

It doesn't help that the younger characters – who are supposed to be intelligence agents – come across more like Johnny English than James Bond.

The film-makers claim to have taken the small-budget gritty realism of the television drama and translated it into a big budget movie, but it never really feels like that. Spooks always looked really slick for a TV show but the film rather drearily feels like it was lifted straight from the small screen. Maybe the producers paid more for stunts and locations but you wouldn’t know it.

They’ve also mis-stepped in taking an ensemble show, which was always about a team of spies, and turning it into a one-man-band, all on the back of the youthful Kit Harington, with Harry as his M. You would have thought that they would have taken advantage of this natural difference from the likes of Bond and Bourne, instead, it invites even more (unfavourable) comparison.

While our older spies carry the movie well, it never really gets away from feeling like an end-of-season extended special of TV Spooks. If you enjoyed the telly series, you may be happy enough with that result, but it doesn’t really leave you gagging for more. ®

Spooks movie poster

Title Spooks: The Greater Good
Director Bharat Nalluri
Cast Jennifer Ehle, Peter Firth, Elyes Gabel, Kit Harington, Eleanor Matsuura, Tim McInnerny, Tuppence Middleton
Release date 8 May (UK)
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