Sorry, all you American fans of Game of Thrones’ Kit “Jon Snow” Harington. Spooks: The Greater Good is unlikely to make it onto many U.S. screens (ie, none at all, I suspect). It’s not that the BBC series it’s based on — Spooks, also known as MI-5 during its niche broadcasts in the U.S. — isn’t well known in the U.S., although there is that to consider. Mostly, it’s that Greater Good posits an American citizen turned jihadi terrorist, Qasim (Elyes Gabel: Interstellar), as one of its villains, and the nefarious influence of the CIA as its ultimate big baddie. I don’t imagine this would play well in Kansas.
Is there a mole in MI-5, the U.K.’s domestic security agency (sort of akin to the FBI)? Looks like it… and looks like that mole is working with the CIA — for whom U.K. domestic security is, of course, of international concern — to bring the agency into disrepute so the Company can swoop in and take over. “We serve the British people, not Washington,” Greater Good reminds us as high-ranking officer Harry Pearce (Peter Firth [Mighty Joe Young], returning from the TV version) drops out of sight and re-recruits recently decommissioned agent Will Holloway (Harington: Pompeii) to find out who the traitor is while also stopping Qasim from bombing London. Who else can a spy trust but someone who hates him and who also isn’t already on the inside?
Director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) turns in a ridiculous and fairly rote action thriller, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining, crammed with all sorts of macho emoting (“What happened in Berlin?!”) and spy nonsense (“Glad you remembered the umbrella drop”) as it is. Kudos to Nalluri for getting back to grim rainy gray London — the city has been annoyingly sunny and chipper in too many films of late — and for, I suspect, being inspired by the minor non-terrorist disaster that was a theatre ceiling collapsing in the West End a couple of years ago during the performance of a play. That provided some fantastic stock footage of emergency services in the heart of London, and also serves as a reminder that the fictional dangers on display here are just that: fictional.
first published 05.07.15
UPDATE 11.30.15: I was wrong about the film not getting a U.S. release: look for it in limited release on Friday, December 4th, until the title MI-5.