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|Index||29 reviews in total|
"Reilly: Ace of Spies" is the most realistic treatment of international
espionage that I've ever seen - probably, of course, because Reilly was
a real person. His exploits are doubtless exaggerated here, but perhaps
not too exaggerated. The scripts certainly seem realistic, and that's
the important thing.
What the series does best is recreate the early 20th century in incredible detail. The lavish sets and costumes establish a wonderful period "look," while the dialogue and narration work well together to outline the era's politics, major concerns, and even technology. There's a lot of exposition, but it never feels dry.
Throughout the first half of the series, Reilly changes locations and missions frequently, ensuring that the episodes always feel fresh. The second half is dedicated entirely to Reilly's ambitions in Russia. I'm not sure which half I prefer - they're both satisfying in different ways.
My only problems with the series are minor ones. David Suchet is a great actor, but he's unmistakably European, and it bothers me to see him play a Chinese character in the second episode. I also think Margaret, Reilly's first wife, has a very drippy persona. That might be intentional, but nevertheless, I can only take her in small doses.
Otherwise, this is a faultless historical thriller. Sam Neil really is superb as Reilly; he manages to convey complex emotions while overall maintaining a tough-guy exterior. The supporting cast is solid, and the historical figures who appear, especially Lenin and Stalin, come across as convincing and extremely charismatic.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this series is that Reilly often employs ruthless means to achieve his ends. This means that he's not always sympathetic; sometimes, the series allows you to hate its protagonist. That's pretty bold TV-making, in my opinion, and I quite respect it.
Back in 1983, my wife and myself watched a 12 part series on TV. My
wife thought it was very good. I thought it was excellent. The leading
roll was played by an actor named Sam Neil who played the master spy
Sidney Reilly as if he were made for the part.
For two decades, I spoke about this series and spent the last of these years waiting for the DVD.
Well, we've viewed the four disk DVD set and I can tell you that Reilly Ace of Spies is even better than I remembered. My wife (a critical reviewer) was just as impressed... far more so than she was some two decades ago.
I won't go into a plot explanation of this series because you can read the bio of Sigmund Rosenblum (aka Sidney Reilly) in many movie reviews and several books. What I can say is that the series very closely parallels what was written about him.
Worthy of note is the acting of Sam Neil, who reached his acting peak in this initial major work.
Mr. Neil (not normally known for his dynamic theatrical presence) played his roll with a versatility that moved easily from calm sophistication to blistering intensity. Keep track of his eyes. They speak with a communicative clarity that he has rarely been equaled.
I'm giving this DVD series a never bestowed (by me) 10 out of 10. A Must see and a classic work.
Sex, murder, intrigue, moves and countermoves, all the stuff that really juicy mini-series are made of...and its a true story. The original introduction that ran with the PBS showing stated that Ian Fleming used Sidney Reilly as the basis of James Bond. Sidney, as played by the great Sam Neill certainly embodies all the trademark qualities of that later spy...a way with a gun and the ladies, a wry sense of humor and a cold, calculating methodolgy. The series covers the time period of the Great Game, when Europe, Russia and England tried to out move each other in access to the newly emerging oil fields of the Middle East. Echoes of that period - approximately (forgive my fading memory) 1895 to 1922 - are still bouncing around the world. Sam Neill is extraordinary as the first great professional spy who set the standard for those who came after, changing it from a gentleman's game to a deadly serious career path. I remember watching some news footage at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. The reporter said that people were tearing down a statue of the founder of the KGB in front of its Headquarters. "Felix Derzhinsky in front of the Lubianka Prison!" I called out to the TV... I knew because of having watched its birth in Sidney Reilly... eventually, the news got it right. If you love history and great drama...this is for you.
Fabulous work by Neill, as usual, in this early work. This series, for the most part historically accurate, covers the almost unbelievable espionage/covert ops careers in history by a man virtually unknown until this series ran. Fascinating perspectives on the political machinations going on in Europe & Asia at the time, most of which Sidney Reilly was involved in at one time or another. This is almost never seen since its initial few runs on PBS, but if it comes back, do NOT miss it. I wish I had taped it now....
Some 20 years ago I saw Sidney Reilly at work for the first time. Last week my husband and I watched "ace of spies" on DVD and We where amazed that the series looks not at all old fashion TV.It was still very much 21st century work and the acting of Sam Neill is still accurate to this day.I fell in love all over again.Today I began to read the book again. I like the work of Sam Neill very much.I think he's an underrated actor and like to see him more in features. But returning to Reilly it was ahead of his time so I give Thames TV a lot of credit to do this project more than 20 years ago. I hope there is a producer bold enough to make a film of Reilly that can reach the quality of the series. Christa
A great true story (no Oliver Stone hacking) about a sinister British super spy and how he almost singlehandedly brought down the Bolshevik revolution. Ian Fleming was once asked who James Bond was based on, he replied "but Reilly of course".
I would think that anyone who watches this series and then compares it
to the last 10 years or so of James Bond films will easily be able to
discern serious story telling from CGI cluttered inanity.
I was mesmerized by this series and IMMEDIATELY became a fan of Sam Neil.
The sets, the wardrobe, all first rate. The supporting cast, as is so often the case with these British entries, is superb.
The direction is better than on most big budget action films and really The best espionage story ever told.
While I did enjoy Sean Connery and the earliest of Bond films this is the real deal, and Sam Neil is, forever, the man who Ian Fleming called the real James Bond.
Leave it to the Brits to get it right.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was very impressed by this. It is just about the only miniseries
(meaning one story in several episodes) from TeeVee that I can
recommend. (The other is the amazing "Singing Detective.")
Perhaps the primary element that attracts is how complex it was. I was often confused, and loved the fact that reality was not simplified. It probably still was at that, and at the same time certain characters made more complex than they probably were.
Since the thing was based on reality and true global intrigue, it avoided formula. We get so used to the writing conventions, that we lose sight that what matters as stories in life rarely are the same as stories that work in film. There were some false moments to be sure for instance his assistant who turns on him. We are seduced by her in the way that teeVee allows: we see her breasts. She is a red, the only such in the story. He is seduced at the same moment. In a day he is murdering her for treachery and establishing images that will factor in his own death. Its too pat, too simply clear.
But overall its true. Its grand, mixed up, contradictory. It as a narrative takes no stance as to which of the groups we are supposed to align ourselves with in terms of root perspective. That's a plus, as the winds shift and shift again, this man essentially playing us the viewer in the way he plays the system against itself.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
Great series, undeniably.
One bit of trivia/credits: while Harry Rabinowitz may have written a "Shostakovich-influenced" score, the theme music itself is actually a recycled composition by the great Dmitri Shostakovich himself, namely the "Romance" from the movie score to "The Gadfly", Opus 97.
I found this out by accident when my daughter brought a new piece home from her (Russian immigrant) violin teacher and started playing it. Having instantly recognized it, I looked at the score which said "Romance" and "Shostakovich" in Cyrillic (Russian) letters. Some Googling for "Romance Shostakovich Reilly" yielded name and opus number, and an MP3 download confirmed the identity of the piece.
When the series first came out it captivated me and to this day I have not been able to find the complete series on either VHS or DVD. It is one of those TV mini-series that the Brits do so well and Sam Neill is just superb in the lead role. The VHS listed is the first episode and in case you are wondering it gets better. I do wish that now they are bringing out series like "Friends" and "Cheers" on DVD that they (whoever they are) would look into bringing out the complete series of this great piece of work. I'm afraid the quality of the picture might be poor (as I found out when I got "Piece of Cake") but it would be still worth it. Rating 876 out of 880!!!!
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