Spooks: The Greater Good, movie review: Kit Harington and Peter Firth leap to the big screen at a ripping pace

(15) Bharat Nalluri, 104 mins. Starring: Kit Harington, Peter Firth, Jennifer Ehle

Geoffrey Macnab
Friday 08 May 2015 12:33 BST
Peter Firth and Kit Harington star in the pacey ‘Spooks: the Greater Good’
Peter Firth and Kit Harington star in the pacey ‘Spooks: the Greater Good’

For all its references to hacking and computer surveillance, its high-tech listening devices and gadgetry, the big-screen spin-off from TV's Spooks is an old-fashioned affair – a ripping yarn with more than a hint of John Buchan about it.

Production values, at least compared with Bourne or Bond movies, are modest. Many of the spies look like provincial bank managers or jobbing civil servants. There is a sense that this is a film aimed primarily at British audiences who have a passing acquaintance with the TV show. At times, it seems stranded in a no man's land between 007-style thrills and George Smiley-like spycraft. The very British eccentricity is part of the appeal.

You can't help but admire the diligence with which the director, Bharat Nalluri, shows off his London locations. We are whisked from Heathrow to Waterloo Bridge, from the West End to Whitehall. No opportunity is lost for high-angle shots of the city and for panoramas of its historic buildings and skyscrapers.

Kit Harington plays Will Holloway, a character roughly similar to his "bastard" Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. He is both part of the Great British spy family and an outsider, forced out of the services in murky circumstances. Nonetheless, when a high-value terrorist, Qasim (Elyes Gabel), is sprung from captivity, Holloway is brought in from the cold to try to get him back.

As in the best spy films, we aren't quite sure which side the spooks are on, whether they are trying to do "good" or to do "well" and further their careers. There is a stirring turn from Peter Firth, who appeared in every episode of the series, as spy chief Sir Harry Pearce, who suspects there may be something rotten at the heart of British intelligence. Jennifer Ehle is good value as his enigmatic colleague. What matters most, though, are the chases, explosions, bluffs and double crosses, all staged at such a relentless tempo there is no time to notice the cracks in the storyline.

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