I hadn’t seen a single episode of popular English spy-drama Spooks before watching the new film – and it looks like it’ll stay that way. It had been described to me as less clean-cut and more toned down than its American counterparts but had started to grow more farfetched over its seven series stretch.
Spooks: The Greater Good opens to a London skyline behind a curtain of rain and queues of traffic stretching to the horizon – this seems realistic enough – but not the most desirable situation for the MI5 agents at the centre of this hold-up, guarding Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel) a terrorist in transit. Something is wrong. Soon Qasim will make his escape and heads will roll.
Held responsible for this debacle, Spooks stalwart and Head of Counter Terrorism Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is forced to resign and disappears soon after. With the organisation now under threat – they look to a fresh face to find Harry and the truth behind his disappearance.
Kit Harrington has traded Longclaw sword for government issued pistol as Holloway – the sharp, fast-thinking ex-MI5 agent who believes Harry is still alive. Speaking mostly in a gruff whisper, in need of a Strepsil, he’s most impressive when in action, and luckily for us he rarely stops for breath.
Spooks: The Greater Good certainly has its impressive set-pieces including Qasim’s breakout and a final shootout, both making the most of their locations. But in-between these bookended sequences there is barely anything other than hammy exposition-laden dialogue: suspicions running high, and characters just running. In these instances the locations become a distracting backdrop. When the film isn’t darting to Berlin and Moscow with sweeping aerials, it’s hopping about through postcard London skylines.
Amidst all the toing and froing there’s everything you’d expect from a twisting espionage, filled with double crosses and conversations at the barrel of a gun. Surprisingly though, most of the film revolves around paranoia among the bods back home at ‘The Grid’ and as such the action scenes give way to TV melodrama. Qasim seems a more complex and rational villain, but he is talked about more than he is seen.
When the action sequences are in full swing the film is gripping but caught up in whom to trust, the film loses sight of the threat and the tension suffers for it.