Swapping Black Crows for Black Ops, Kit Harrington finds he still knows nothing as he runs around London trying to unravel Harry Pearce’s latest Gordian knot of conspiracy and double crosses in this competent but unremarkable coda to the successful television series “Spooks”.
When MI-5 lose Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel), a high value CIA prisoner during a routine transfer, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is made a scapegoat and drummed out of the service. However, Harry suspects that there is a traitor right at the heart of the service and goes off the grid to find out who it is. Enlisting his former protégé Will Holloway (Harrington), he tries to stay one step ahead of his former colleagues at MI-5 and thwart Qasim’s imminent attack on London.
Although only a handful of cast members return from the series’ ten season run, Director Bharat Nalluri (who directed the first few episodes of the series and established the ‘house style’) is back in the chair to helm this instalment. Unfortunately this does make the finished product look very televisual, not cinematic and its fondness for a steely palette of greys and blues robs both London and Berlin of any personality. There are certain signs of TV style frugality at play and one this is abundantly clear: they paid for a helicopter to shoot aerial shots of London and they were damn well going to get their money’s worth!
The story itself tries to cram a whole seasons’ worth of plot and counter-plot into its 104 minute running time which leaves little room for action in amongst the all the exposition and moody middle-distance staring and the eventual resolution strains credibility just a little. Of course, all the “Spooks” hallmarks are still there: the old-school tradecraft, Harry’s collateral ruthlessness and the obligatory shocking death but much of the cast play it too broadly, and you certainly don’t need to be an intelligence analyst to identify the traitor within the first thirty minutes.
Kit Harrington makes a decent enough hero although I doubt Jason Bourne or James Bond need be looking over their shoulder any time soon but the film’s weakest link is in its villain. Elves Gabel actually gives probably the best performance of anyone in the movie but he’s in it so fleetingly that the character still ends up being underdeveloped thanks to the script by series veterans Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent. Its focus on Harry’s quest to find the traitor in MI-5 rather than the imminent terrorist attack on London robs the supposed villain of the piece of much of his menace and fritters away any sense of impending doom or urgency. Who cares if there’s a series of massive bombs being planted in London when there’s always time to emerge enigmatical from behind someone and give them a meaningful look?
In the end, “Spooks: The Greater Good” fails to do what any TV series making the leap to the big screen needs to do: be bigger, edgier, do something that it simply couldn’t have done on TV. As it is, this contemporary update of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” feels like a “Spooks” Christmas Special with delusions of grandeur. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing their hero fighting the good fight once again but for the casual viewer or spy thriller fan there’s little here that stands out.