British cinema faces an uphill struggle in making multiplex-friendly fare: producing films that will both appeal to fans of big budget blockbusters and also avoid feeling like a cheap imitation. In this instance, Spooks: The Greater Good (2015) does at least have familiarity on its side. The television series, which ran for nine years and had a reputation for devastating plot twists, underlines its cinematic ambitions with lead Kit Harington. The Game of Thrones star plays a former MI5 agent brought back in the fold to find disgraced mentor Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) in order to help him foil a terrorist plot. Blue filtered shots of modern London and a back-to-basics portrayal of espionage set the tone for a bold but flawed thriller.
This may be the one case where not deviating too much from the BBC television show may be a good thing, as the scope of the original series was always large and so suits the transition to big screen with relative ease, no doubt helped by original director Bharat Nalluri at the helm. The downside is that Hollywood has already beaten it to the punch several times, and therefore while several plot twists and action scenes keep the tone tense and urgent, it is only a slight step above very average spy movies (such as the recent Kenneth Branagh-directed Jack Ryan reboot) and well below the heights of Jason Bourne. Making the transition to film stardom from a well-known TV role is a difficult path for most actors, but Harington seems at ease as the newcomer in a familiar British franchise.
Possessing youthful insolence combined with a haunted demeanour appropriate to his character’s past, the young British actor becomes an accessible viewpoint for the audience, in a film where he could very easily have been drowned out by strong character actors. In particular he enjoys a strong rapport with Firth, with the generational sparring and emotional subtext provided by the script making up for failings elsewhere in the cast (such as a rather bland antagonist in Elyes Gabel). Spooks: The Greater Good will provide a satisfying experience for all who see it, but perhaps more so with ardent fans of the series. The aesthetic, tone and performances result in a package that sits alongside similar Hollywood fare comfortably. However, in an industry that demands even the most famous spies to try something different, Nalluri’s film never stands out more than providing a solid platform for its star, and a larger canvas for its fan base.
James Luxford | @JLFilm