your £$ support needed

part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Spooks: The Greater Good (aka MI-5) movie review: game of moles

Spooks The Greater Good yellow light

A ridiculous, rote action thriller, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining, crammed with all sorts of macho emoting and spy nonsense as it is.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

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.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Spooks: The Greater Good (aka MI-5) for its representation of girls and women.

yellow light 3 stars

Please support truly independent film criticism
as generously as you can.
support my work at PayPal support my work at Patreon support my work at Ko-Fi support my work at Liberapay More details...

Spooks: The Greater Good (aka MI-5) (2015)
US/Can release: Dec 04 2015 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: May 08 2015

MPAA: rated R for violence and some language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, threat, strong language, sex references)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    I’m told by fans of the show that it never really lived up to the deep-fat-fryer scene in its opening episode. After that, they said, it was mostly soap opera with occasional gunfire.

  • Danielm80

    The first season was excellent, and the second season was mostly excellent, too. The third season was a series of contrived efforts to write the original cast out of the show. After that, it got too painful for me to watch. I hope it improved.

  • neilstockton

    Why not rely on watching it instead of what you’re told? The production and script writing of the first couple of series left a lot to be desired (all IMHO of course). For me, several of the two parters in series 5, 6, 7 were the highlights, with each series having good and bad points

  • There are 86 episodes of this show. How many episodes should someone watch before they decide whether it’s worth watching? You say the highlights don’t come till season 5… that’s a lot of episodes.

    My point is: Everyone must rely on outside information when deciding which TV shows (and movies) to watch. We can’t all watch everything and then decide. That would be crazy.

  • neilstockton

    How about they watch one? The original poster didn’t base their opinion on seeing *anything*, just on what people told them. What I see as the “highlights” aren’t what someone else does necessarily. Get out their and see the world dear, and experience it for yourself

  • Danielm80

    As MaryAnn pointed out, there are 86 episodes. What if he decides to watch just one and picks the “wrong” episode? Each time he watches the show, he has a one-in-86 chance of seeing an episode he likes. If he gets a recommendation from somebody he trusts, he might be able to narrow the odds. Or he may decide the show just isn’t for him. Life’s too short to watch everything. If he followed your advice, he’d have to watch 600 movies a year to find out if he really, truly likes any of them. That’s why we have film critics.

  • LaSargenta

    A gazillion upvotes for this.

    I have a limited amount of time and I don’t watch most things.

  • LaSargenta

    You must have a lot of spare time and don’t mind wasting it waiting for the good bits.

  • neilstockton

    Oh FFS, who anywhere in the above did anyone say watch every episode of everything? Clearly reading not a strong point around here.

  • RogerBW

    Well, since you apparently decided to use my comment as a jumping-off point for your rant: I personally watched the rest of series 1, and I regret all the time I wasted on this piece of garbage which in my opinion managed to get basically nothing right. But I didn’t want to put off other people who might find the thing interesting, so I didn’t bother to mention that in the original post.

Pin It on Pinterest