Page Eight

Dir: David Hare
Star: Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Tom Hughes

There's something about Nighy which reminds me of Peter Cushing; he has much the same sense of calm authority, delivering lines in a way that makes it impossible not to listen. Here, he's in top form, as veteran MI-5 officer Johnny Worricker, whose long-time mentor Benedict Baron (Gambon), provides him with a document proving, not only that the Americans have operated secret prisons, but that the British Prime Minister knew about it, and failed to share intelligence obtained, even with his own Home Secretary. Baron's untimely death from a 'heart attack', leaves Worricker exposed to the efforts of the government to hush things up, since he didn't know Baron's confidential source, which renders the document worthless. As the pressure on Worricker is applied with increasing force, the only person it seems he can trust is his neighbour, Nancy Pierpan (Weisz) - but even she has her own agenda, with her life on hold until she has uncovered the truth about her brother's death on the West Bank in Israel. So is she a reliable source of help?

Great stuff, anchored not by car-chases and explosion (not that there's anything wrong with that, I should repeat - hey, I wrote a spirited defence of Battle: Los Angeles yesterday...), but by great performances from heavy hitters like Nighy and Gambon. Just about everyone here is someone you'll recognize from elsewhere, and they all fit their characters like a glove. David Hare's script has the slightly-artificial feel of Mamet, and the political intrigue, such as the discussions in meetings, is particularly gripping, with nuggests of information taking the place of hand-grenades. Less successful is Hare's efforts to depict Worricker's relationships; while the hints that he was a bit of stud work well, any time more than the surface is scratched, it sounds like bad soap-opera. Which might have been the point, I guess, and it'd be a stretch to call it a major problem. I was reminded of M's line from Goldeneye, about 007 being "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War". Much the same could be said of Worricker, though if his belief in 'true intelligence' - as opposed to telling the politicians what they want to know - is truly as outmoded as it seems here, that's chilling stuff.

[November 2011]

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