Having never seen the TV series I had no real expectations of the film version, or real knowledge, other than it is something to do with spies and MI5. It’s with great pleasure to report then that as a stand-alone spy movie, Spooks: The Greater Good works. It’s tense, looks great, pacy and well acted, satisfying on pretty much every level, as a decent espionage thriller should. It taps into our current fears of attack from abroad, especially ISIS, at times almost painfully so. It’s also the first film for ages to use its London locations to great effect without making everything look cheesy.
It begins with a great set piece. The most wanted terrorist in the world is being transported across London, but the armoured van is stuck in a pesky traffic jam. Out of nowhere come armed motorbike riders to free him. They know that watching in MI5 headquarters is Peter Finch, and tell him, either free the man or lots of innocent people will die. Finch lets the man go.
The terrorist – the excellent, charismatic Elyes Gabel – then begins to plan a huge terrorist attack on London from his warehouse somewhere in east London. Obviously MI5 have to stop him, but the man with real revenge on his mind is Kit Harington, whose father died in Berlin during the Cold War but who was decommissioned by Finch. Harington is no James Bond – he is scruffy, often unarmed, and has no luck with either the ladies or the gambling tables – but he is a lone wolf, and Finch knows he is the country’s best bet to find and kill the terrorist before a catastrophic attack.
Finch and Harington’s father-son relationship works well and is cleverly written, it is convincing without ever becoming too mawkish, as both men realise they need each other. They do of course have one thing in common, they both despise the old-school top brass, epitomised by Tim McInnerney’s wonderfully blundering blazered character, and Jennifer Ehle’s posh role.
Amongst the set pieces, the chases across London and the shootouts there is even time for Finch and Harington to travel to Berlin to try and get back Gabel’s wife to use in negotiations, and Berlin looks suitably grey and Cold War even after the Wall has fallen. There is a sequence with a sniper on top of the National Theatre which is brilliantly staged and heart-stoppingly twitchy.
There is also, of course, a cracking twist at the end, entirely appropriate for a film which, if you’re in the mood, hits all the right spots.
Overall verdict: Old-school spy thriller which has few special effects, relying instead on a tense set up, solid script, grown-up acting and a convincing storyline. It may not rank with the best of Bond or Bourne, but for a decent thriller it will do just fine. Recommended.
Reviewer: Mike Martin