UK Release Date: 8th May 2015
Runtime: 104 minutes
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Writer: Jonathan Brackley, Sam Vincent
Starring: Kit Harington, Peter Firth, Tuppence Middleton, Jennifer Ehle, Elyes Gabel, David Harewood, Tim McInnerny, Lara Pulver
Synopsis: A former agent returns to the world of espionage to investigate corruption in the British Secret Service.
Airing throughout the noughties on BBC television, Spooks was a hugely popular spy drama. It gained notoriety for its regular killing off of major characters, years before Game of Thrones lopped off Sean Bean’s head. The show came to an end in 2011, but a film was soon on the cards, teaming the head writers of the final series, Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, with the show’s first director, Bharat Nalluri.
Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is supervising the transport of dangerous terrorist Qasim (Elyes Gabel) across London when the convoy is attacked and Qasim escapes. Blamed for disaster, Harry fakes his own death. Suspicious, MI5 hires ex-agent Will Holloway (Kit Harington) to track Harry down. When the two find each other, Harry suggests that there is a traitor at the highest level of MI5.
Having never seen an episode of the TV show, I went into Spooks: The Greater Good completely cold. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of Nalluri’s film. It’s got all of the gloss and momentum of a tense Hollywood thriller, whilst grasping its British sensibilities tightly and refusing to let go.
| "MI5 is teetering on the edge."
The central plot of the film is an interesting one, bolstered by some genuinely shocking twists and turns along the way. There’s a lot of running around whilst explaining the plot, but it’s largely delivered in the midst of genuinely compelling action.
The frequent close-quarters fighting is clearly Bourne-inspired and is genuinely bruising. Bharat Nalluri, in the director’s chair, brings a real frenetic energy to the action whilst always maintaining narrative clarity, which is a great skill. It’s certainly something Michael Bay hasn’t worked out yet. In Spooks: The Greater Good, every punch feels like it hurts and every gunshot leaves a wound.
Unfortunately, Spooks: The Greater Good falls down slightly in the shape of its leading actor. Kit Harington lacks the charisma for a straight leading man role and Spooks makes that clear. This is an improvement on his bland turn in Testament of Youth, but still showcases a distinct lack of charm. Harington’s issue at the moment is miscasting. He has great comedy chops, but the roles he is being given at the moment are far too serious.
| "You can do good or do well."
It doesn’t matter that Harington’s work occasionally undercuts some of the emotional aspects of the story, given that the thriller aspects of the film work so well. There’s an admirable grasp of pacing that keeps the plot rattling along and some genuinely unexpected double-crosses. For fans of the show, it’s a fitting conclusion, and it’s an entertaining ride for everyone else.
Pop or Poop?
Thankfully, Spooks: The Greater Good is better than the vast majority of TV to film transfers, working in its own right as an efficient and pacy spy thriller.
Kit Harington’s central performance is functional, but free of charisma, and the supporting cast mines the best of British talent.
It’s a little exposition-heavy, particularly in the case of Peter Firth’s character, but the fists fly and the action keeps the pulse racing for an hour and a half.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.