Tag Archives: TV series based

Review – Spooks: The Greater Good (15) [2015]

Spooks - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Bharat Nalluri – Killing Time, The Crow, Spooks, The Player

Cast:

  • Kit Harington – Pompeii, A Testament of Youth, Seventh Son, Game of Thrones
  • Peter Firth – The Hunt For Red October, Pearl Harbour, Spooks, Risen
  • Jennifer Ehle – The King’s Speech, The Ides of March, Contagion, Zero Dark Thirty, A Quiet Passion
  • Tuppence Middleton – Cleanskin, The Imitation Game, Jupiter Ascending, War And Peace
  • Elyes Gabel – Game of Thrones, World War Z, A Most Violent Year, Scorpion
  • Tim McInnerny – Spooks
  • Eleanor Matsuura – Alan Partridge, The Love Punch, Residue, Burn Burn Burn
  • Michael Wildman – Family Affairs, A Bunch of Amateurs, Act of Godfrey, London Has Fallen
  • Lara Pulver – Spooks, True Blood, Edge of Tomorrow, A Patch of Fog
  • David Harewood – The Ruby In The Smoke, Homeland, Grimsby

Music Composer:

  • Dominic Lewis – Free Birds, The DUFF, The Player

When one watches a TV series from the beginning, one usually becomes emotionally invested in the characters. Whether it is Jack Bauer from 24, Homer Simpson from The Simpsons, the inbetweeners from The Inbetweeners, or the leading police officers from 21 Jump Street, viewers usually acquire affection (or disdain) for the characters, and normally they carry their sentiments on into the film adaptation(s) or spin-off(s). But what if one has not watched the TV series that a film is based on? Can one still enjoy the film to the same extent as if one had watched the show? Spooks: The Greater Good may give us an answer.

Harry (Peter Firth) convincing Will Holloway (Kit Harington), an ex-agent, to trust him and to rejoin M:I-5.

Harry (Peter Firth) convincing Will Holloway (Kit Harington), an ex-agent, to trust him and to rejoin M:I-5.

Spooks is based on the British TV series with the same title that aired between 2002-11 (although it was also called M:I-5 in some circles). The film is a spy thriller. At the start of the movie, Adam Qasim (Elyes Gabel), a terrorist wanted by US authorities, is in the hands of M:I-5. He is on his way to being handed over to the CIA in London when the vehicles driving him are attacked in a heist. Threatened with the deaths of agents in the streets, M:I-5 orders the agents to hand over Qasim to the armed attackers.

Now free, Qasim plans a terrorist attack on London. While M:I-5 looks for him and determines what he intends to do, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) disappears. He is convinced that there is a traitor in M:I-5 who let Qasim free, and he re-recruits Will Holloway (Kit Harrington), an ex-agent, to help him find out who the traitor is.

Spooks is a solid espionage thriller. The film is quite grounded and beguiling with good acting and humorous dialogue. For one who has not watched an episode of Spooks the TV series, there are probably some subtleties that go unseen. But not seeing these does not make the film any less entertaining. Furthermore, the film is written in such a way that the allegiances (and rivalries) between key personnel in the upper echelons of M:I-5 are spelled out quite early on in the film. So, one should not have a problem understanding who is on whose side… until they switch sides, of course. But that happened in the TV series regularly, like in 24, and is also part and parcel of the spy genre in general. How much emotional investment in Spooks one needs prior to watching the film is debatable.

June (Tuppence Middleton), an M:I-5 agent, going in with a fellow agent to take out some terrorists.

June (Tuppence Middleton), an M:I-5 agent, going in with a fellow agent to take out some terrorists.

Yes, it may have helped to know what the shifty Harry Pearce, played well by Peter Firth, is like before going into the film in the same way it may have helped to watch The Simpsons on TV to appreciate what makes the blundering Homer Simpson so endearing before watching The Simpsons Movie. Similarly, watching Spooks the TV show may have helped to get to know supporting cast members played by Tim McInnerney and Lara Pulver. Both reprise their roles from the show well but are given little screen time during the movie (especially compared to Peter Firth’s character).

Nevertheless, for every actor reprising their character, there are a handful of new characters. Jennifer Ehle, Tuppence Middleton, Eleanor Masuura and, chiefly, Kit Harington were never part of the TV series. Suffice to say, all of them have a role in the film and add something different to the plot. Fans (and non-fans) of the show cannot have known these characters or anticipate their motives prior to the movie. This means that the film is going to deviate from the show and that whatever happened previously in the TV series is unlikely to be crucial.

Jon Snow... I mean, Will Holloway being the hero and using a gun to take out a foe instead of a sword.

Jon Snow… I mean, Will Holloway being the hero and using a gun, instead of a sword, to take out a foe.

Yet, if fans (and non-fans) are arguing over how alike Spooks the film is to Spooks the TV series, they are arguing over the wrong issue. How closely the film resembles the show pales in comparison to the problem of the film’s tone. Director Bharat Nalluri cannot make up his mind if he wants the film to be taken seriously, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or as a spoof, like Kingsman: The Secret Service. Bearing in mind the title of the movie reads and sounds close to ‘spoof,’ it may have been logical to make the film as a satire, as James Bond was pre-Daniel Craig. (Or maybe that conclusion is borne from not watching the TV series?) Either way, Spooks’ tone is confusing. Add in the (numerous) implausible plot twists and it is understandable that viewers get into a fuddle as to what sort of a film they’re watching.

Over-all, Spooks is an enjoyable spy thriller. It has been put together well enough to ensure that viewers who have not watched the TV series that preceded the movie are not worse off than those who did. The tone of the film may be puzzling and some of the Byzantine-like scheming makes no sense. However, Spooks: The Greater Good has got good acting, dialogue and intrigue, with semi-grounded action. Thus, like any film with such ingredients, Spooks is a decent movie and worth a watch.

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Review – Transformers III: Dark of the Moon (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

In a recent Daily Mail article, Brian Clark Howard accuses Transformers director, Michael Bay (Transformers I & II, Armageddon, The Rock), of using footage from his previous films, Pearl Harbour and The Island, in the latest Transformers movie. Of course, Transformers III: Dark of the Moon is not entirely made of recycled parts of other films. Then again, whilst watching the last volume of the Transformers saga (although, one can never rule out a fourth instalment these days), one does get the impression that he/she has seen it all before, much to the film’s detriment.

Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), the leader of the Autobots, fighting to defend the city of Chicago from the Decepticons.

Dark of the Moon begins with America launching the first shuttle into space in 1961, and continues with the first man landing on the moon in 1969. It is on the moon that a party of astronauts discover the ruins of a lost Autobot space shuttle, called the Ark. Inside the remains of the Ark are the Pillars, energy fuel in a cylindrical containing the power to open a bridge to Cybertron, the Transformers’ lost-world; and Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy – Star Trek), the lost leader of the Autobots.

After finding out about the mission, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen – Transfomers I & II), the leader of the Autobots in the absence of Sentinel, leads an expedition to rescue his wise master. Only Sentinel understands how to manipulate the Pillars to forge the bridge between Earth and Cybertron. (The bridge can travel through time too.) Optimus hopes to use Sentinel to bring good to Earth and, perhaps, force the victorious Decepticons out of Cybertron. However, Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving – The Matrix I-III, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit I), the leader of the Decepticons, has other ideas. He intends to use Sentinel to his own advantage.

Meanwhile, Sam Whitwicky (Shia Labeouf – Transformers I & II, Disturbia, Fury) has finished college and is unemployed. As he looks for a job, he finds himself embroiled once more in the war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons.

A mean-looking Decepticon flying through Chicago as the bridge to Cybertron is being activated.

Whilst the film’s plot may appear decent, the pace is slow and quite dull. It is strange to think that a film with loud booms, explosions and a super-gorgeous girl would be tedious. But Transformers III is tedious! That the storyline loses its way less than half way through the film (some would say twenty minutes) and the movie is two and a half hours long, may have something to do with it.

But what is more surprising is that the film’s second-half descent into a chaotic over-indulgence of action and destruction seems quite ordinary. The music is epic and up-lifting, and the CGI is undoubtedly awesome. Yet, those are things that viewers of Transformers III have heard and seen in volumes I & II. (In addition, the mass assault of the Decepticons upon the city of Chicago looks like scenes from the recent far-from-spectacular alien invasion movies, Battle: Los Angeles and Skyline.)

Nevertheless, the action scenes in Dark of the Moon have not been done well at all. The scenes are badly choreographed and don’t follow on from one another, leaving gaping holes in the storyline. (How Steven Spielberg, one of the film’s executive producers, did not notice this is remarkable.)

Sam’s stunning new girlfriend, Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), stepping out of an expensive Mercedes.

The structure of the film is not the worst part of Dark of the Moon by a long stretch. That award goes to, once again in the Transformers saga, the dialogue and the acting. The former is laughably appalling and the latter, almost as a consequence, is pathetic. If a brilliant actor like John Malkovich is made to look poor (and he did not even achieve such a feat in the disaster movie Eragon), then there is virtually no hope for the rest of the cast, such as Shia Leboeuf and Megan Fox’s replacement, Rosie Huntigton-Whiteley. (And yes, Bay can’t help but take a not-so-subtle swipe at Fox for comparing him to Hitler.)

So Dark of the Moon has dreadful acting and dialogue; the same old war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and the usual inspiring music to go with it; as well as exceptional CGI. Does that mean one has seen it all before in the Transformers franchise? The tedium would suggest so, but with one difference: a sexy brunette bimbo has been replaced by a sexy blonde bimbo.

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