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Hayley Atwell made this for me - she was excellent throughout. The
story was exciting, although I still don't know who was watching from
the forest and why they would suddenly start to do so, long after the
original events. Charlotte Rampling is also very good indeed in her
The credits show that quite a lot of it was filmed in South Africa, which seems to have done duty for the USA. This sometimes looked cheap (the little street corner that stands in again and again for New York City) and some of the local actors had dodgy American accents. "Turn left hyah" doesn't strike me as authentic for New Mexico.
It was enjoyable and I recommend it.
RESTLESS is a two-part BBC drama, based on a story by ANY HUMAN HEART
author William Boyd. It's set in two different time periods, the 1940s
and the 1970s, and follows the fate of characters working as spies
For starters, this is no ANY HUMAN HEART. The calibre of the script just isn't up there with that production's, and the whole cross-cutting between two time periods doesn't work that well. The wartime espionage stuff is fine, but the '70s era plotting is dull and features luvvies Charlotte Rampling and Michael Gambon giving typically lethargic performances.
Thankfully, we have at least half of a good show, because the spy stuff is where RESTLESS hits its stride. Hayley Atwell (PILLARS OF THE EARTH) once again proves her worth as a tough, sexy, heroine, trained to be a spy by the British and engaging in all manner of dangerous plots thereafter. Rufus Sewell more than matches her as the suave spymaster she falls for.
Clocking in at three hours, the production is a little slow and the ending more than a little obvious; the identity of a key villain is also way too obvious. Still, the espionage scenes are handled well and it's a pleasure to watch drama that doesn't pander to its audience.
This gripping film was brilliantly directed by Edward Hall, who has previously directed six episodes of the TV series SPOOKS but is otherwise little known. I cannot imagine that now he will be little known for much longer. The film is from a screenplay by William Boyd, an adaptation of whose novel (by himself), ANY HUMAN HEART (2010, see my review) was truly spectacular. I would say that William Boyd is now one of the hottest things British television has got to offer to the world. Hayley Atwell does a truly brilliant job of playing the lead in this new film, just as she excelled in Boyd's earlier series. This film is a new variation of the British traitor theme, and concerns a devilishly cunning double agent. Atwell plays the young Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian émigré fluent in English and other languages, who is recruited as a British spy in 1939. The film begins in the current day, when Eva is played with steely conviction by the indomitable Charlotte Rampling, who was for so long every thinking man's choice of the ideal tea partner, if crumpet was to be served. Really, I do think Charlotte Rampling could convince anyone of anything. If she had not been an actress she could have made a fortune as a salesman. Even now that the film is over, I still believe she is out there with her sawn-off shotgun ready to protect herself from the people who want her dead because she knows too much. The screenplay, as is to be expected, coming as it does from Boyd, is sensationally well crafted. All the cast are excellent. Rufus Sewell has matured into a most interesting actor who has gone beyond youth into becoming a real man at last. For too long he was the thrusting young man. Now he can get all those good solid grown-up parts which suit him so much better. He does a wonderful job here as the spy master Lucas Romer, who in the present day scenes is played with his usual powerful presence by Michael Gambon. Young Michelle Dockery plays the daughter of Rampling. We can see her character visibly maturing on the screen, as the action brings out that rare thing in a movie, true character development. At the beginning of the film, when Rampling announces to her daughter that her name is Eva Delectorskaya, Dockery thinks she must be getting Aldzheimers or something, and says: 'Nonsense, you're my mother. Your name is Sally Gilmartin', as if she were a nurse calming a patient. But gradually the truth begins to dawn, and it is not long before they enter into a double game as a team to flush out the threat to Rampling's life. There are many heart-stopping moments. But the central glowing presence on the screen which makes everything work so convincingly is Hayley Atwell. She was named by her parents after Hayley Mills, as so many thousands of British girls were. (Hayley was only a surname until Hayley Mills was given it as a first name, her mother being Mary Hayley-Bell. William Hayley, 1745-1820, their ancestor, was a distinguished minor English poet of the 19th century and a close friend of William Blake.) So maybe talent is hereditary, passing down through anyone named Hayley. Just a thought! The seamless interweaving between past and present in this film (well, I say film, it was shown in two episodes on the BBC and is thus technically a mini-series, I suppose, though with a running time altogether of only 3 hours) is done with considerable finesse. Everything seems to have come together to make RECKLESS a total success, and that splendid achievement was anything but reckless. More, please!
Was "Restless" worth using up 3 hours of my life on? The answer is (probably) 'Yes', but only just... The plot was interesting, the performances adequate, and I had to think a number of times as to who, when, and where the characters were when settings changed. The casting was a bit iffy for me. I found it hard to accept the actors as the same people at varying stages of their lives. (I accept there must be difficulties involved in productions that need to show characters at different points in their lives, but the casting here wasn't the best. I suppose it's a toss-up between using different actors, or ageing characters by make-up. Both must have their problems.) On top of that, and without even trying, I noticed some anomalies. Among others, the wrong version of the Stars and Stripes was used, and wrong telephone ring tones too. The mother and daughter left the shop without taking all of their purchases with them. The college tutor finished his drink twice. All in all, it passed the time, but my 'suspension-of-disbelief' was suspended. I'm only a customer - what do I know..?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Ruth Gilmartin goes to visit her mother Sally she is surprised to
find her acting somewhat paranoid; convinced that there are people in
the woods who are watching her and intending to kill her. Sally has a
bigger surprise for her daughter; she isn't really Sally Gilmartin; her
name is Eva Delectorskaya. She was a Russian émigré living in France
when she was recruited to British Intelligence by a man called Lucas
Romer. We see the younger Eva working for him, helping plant false news
stories that are intended to help the war effort. The most important of
her missions takes her to the United States; here they are trying to
sway opinion so that neutral America will join the war against Germany.
Things don't go according to plan and Eva becomes convinced that one of
the group must have betrayed them! As she learns more about her
mother's past Ruth helps her track down Lucas Romer but if her mother
is right they are both in more danger than ever.
This two part thriller nicely balanced the events that took place during the war and those that were taking place thirty years later. Michelle Dockery and Charlotte Rampling did fine jobs as Ruth and Sally Gilmartin but it was Hayley Atwell who stole the show as the younger Sally, aka Eva. Even though we knew her character had to survive the war her scenes managed to be tense; especially those in the United States. For the most part the tension was maintained by the threat of violence but occasionally the threat became a reality. Much of the violence was fairly tame but there is a scene where somebody gets stabbed in the eye which is surprisingly graphic. I suspect most viewers will guess who the traitor was although when it is revealed the motives are not those that I'd expected I won't say more to avoid spoiling the ending too much!
***may contain spoilers for some sensitive folks***
RESTLESS, the television adaptation of William Boyd's novel of the same name, was shown on UK BBC One and US Sundance Channel television in two parts in December 2012. The teleplay was nominated for two Primetime Emmy awards the following spring. Part one, the story of Eva's early life as a spy in the days leading to World War II, is beautifully filmed on spectacular locations in Europe. The cars used in the production are European vintage in beautiful condition. The costumes are interesting and appear authentic. The cast is superlative: Sally Gilmartin...Charlotte Rampling ("Swimming Pool") Eva Delectorskaya...Hayley Atwell ("Any Human Heart") Ruth Gilmartin....Michelle Dockery ("Downton Abbey") Lucas Romer....Rufus Sewell ("Zen")(Part 1)....Michael Gambon ("Dancing at Lughnasa")(Part 2)
The story begins in 1976 in a remote part of England when Ruth (a long red-haired hippie working on her doctorate) and her son visit her mother Sally Gilmartin. Ruth finds her mother in great fear thinking someone is in the woods behind the house trying to kill her. Sally has purchased a rifle, binoculars, and a telescope. She tells her daughter she was a Russian girl named Eva that was a spy for the British in a clandestine group that offered refuge for German informants and recruited Roosevelt's help for British causes in WW II. Sally implores Ruth to find and visit Lucas Romer, the only one she trusts in the group, to stop the present-day killers; she gives her daughter her journal of her days as a spy.
Eva's journal begins in 1939 German-occupied France when she is recruited by spy-master Lucas Romer after her brother is killed by Nazis. She is trained at a safe house in a remote part of England. The film emphasizes that Eva receives no weapons training, so it is clearer that she is training to be a seductress. (At least, clearer to me in the teleplay than in the novel.)
The restaurant scene, one of Eva's first capers, takes place in Amsterdam when she and Romer, but primarily Eva, are to rescue a Dutch informant. The man gives Eva the wrong "double password" and Eva escapes through a bathroom window and witnesses the informant's death by several Nazi diners. The scene is vivid and well done...and shows Romer's early dominance over Eva's activities. (He's across the street in a hotel with a pair of binoculars!)
Romer, played by a handsome Rufus Sewell with a thin mustache, is not nicer than in the book...still an arrogant, rude man! He stays in the shadows at Eva's brother's funeral and during her spy training. The several times they meet, he is discourteous and does not treat her as a lady (although one of her fake passports is for a Baroness). Both Eva and Romer smoke continuously. Other men light her cigarettes...just not Romer. There is a strange scene where one of the group, an older man, calls Eva to witness a murder posed as a suicide at a crime scene before the police are summoned. Eva recognizes the victim as one of the directors of the group.
One can still wonder in the film, as in the book, why Eva and Romer became lovers. It happens suddenly with a kiss and then a seduction in a hotel room. If I recall, it's right after the restaurant caper. (As someone mentioned in my book club discussion...love happens fast in tense times.) Although RESTLESS is an adult drama, there is no profanity nor any bodily function or display in bad taste. Romer's sexual practice (coitus interruptus) is hinted at in the hotel room scene...but you would miss it if you have not read the novel.
The first part ends when Eva is assigned to go to Washington, D. C. to persuade America to come to Britain's aid in its war with Germany. Her specific assignment is to seduce the aide of Roosevelt's personal assistant Harry Hopkins. Previews of the conclusion show her as a blowzy blonde.....
Having been introduced to Atwell in the Captain America movies, I have
become quite a fan. I loved her in Agent Carter and hope for the series
to continue regularly; so was very interested to find that she was in a
movie - a TV movie but still a movie nonetheless. I have also become a
fan of Dockery's, whom I first saw in Downton Abbey, and I think these
two are my favourite British actresses, in historical dramas anyway. So
the acting is great, though Atwell can not really pass as Russian, plus
her 'Russian' accent changed too fast to be believable.
Also, I like the atmosphere of the past better than the present. It feels more authentic, and there was more action there I guess. I was not as interested in the present than I was of the past and the events that happened. But the juxtaposition of the two times was done really well. Action scenes were executed impressively as well with some very thrilling sequences.
I'm not really sure what the significance of Ruth's son was, and her relationship with Karl-Heinz (Alexander Fehling) because maybe it added some depth to her character but the characters seem kind of pointless. Also, it added some confusion to the story as I was wondering what he was involved in when it didn't really affect the main story anyway.
I did not much like the ending as well. The music makes me think something bad happens but it just ends. So yea, I was hoping for a better ending. I like how the story concluded, but the ending scenes just felt like something was missing.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This made for British television movie has astonishing performances.
Michael Gambon, Michelle Dockery (of Downton Abbey), Hayley Atwell, and
especially Charlotte Rampling. The film is well directed and keeps up
the suspense all the way to the end.
Some of the reviews of this have been quite astonishing. I have no idea (other than Michelle Dockery is in both) a reviewer would compare it (unfavorably!) with Downton Abbey - the best British television series EVER. Also people saying there are all these alleged "plot holes". Actually, it all makes sense and is brilliantly done and very entertaining.
But I want to give my greatest praise for the brilliant actress Charlotte Rampling as the older Eva. I suspect she will win a well deserved Emmy as Best Supporting Actress next September. She has a steely determination and a feeling of paranoia after years of stress over being found out.
My only complaint has to do with the commercial interruptions on Sundance - once it comes out on DVD the maddening commercials will be gone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
NOTE: The spoiler is in the fourth paragraph.
It's not that Restless is badly acted- just that a story about a WW2 spy should be a lot more fun than this two-parter TV movie, totalling three hours.
There are two timelines: the present day, which is the seventies, and the early forties. In the 'present day', Ruth Gilmartin (Michelle Dockery) is told by her mother Sally (Charlotte Rampling) that she is not Sally but instead is Eva Delectorskaya, a former British spy during WW2. In the forties, Eva (Hayley Atwell) is recruited by charismatic spymaster Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewell) who naturally she ends up falling in love with.
Whilst real life espionage is probably not like a Bond movie and is closer to the mundane work here, full of innocent code phrases and staring out of a window for hours spying on someone, it makes the pace drag. The espionage becomes more exciting in Episode 2 but it's not really worth sitting through Episode 1, which is a bit of a waste of time unless you want to see the romancing of Lucas and Eva.
Were this a normal length TV movie, that would have helped considerably as there is a lot of filler here. It also means that the viewer might be more forgiving of the various clichés- it's blindingly obvious that Lucas is going to seduce Eva and that he will be a traitor. The fact that this does not occur to her at all makes Eva come across as stupid. Rather than focusing on her espionage skills, she comes across more like an ordinary woman motivated by love.
There are hints in the second episode of some politically relevant parallels with WW2 in the seventies but this is not explored. Restless is too superficial to be interesting but not superficial enough to enjoy as a pulpy spy story. I am aware that it is based on a novel by William Boyd but the filmmakers needed to either make it intellectual or entertainment and they did neither.
The description of the three hour, two episode drama is misleading. The
daughter doesn't find out her mother is not who she thought she was.
Instead she is given a manuscript containing the complete story of her
mother's life. Most of the film is what Hayley Atwell's character did
in the 40's, with little that makes any sense in the 1970's "present".
Now, the story is interesting, a sort of cloak and dagger British Intelligence outfit that is tasked with convincing the Americans to join the war effort in favour of Europe. Sexy Eva is recruited, trained and unleashed upon unsuspecting foreign agents. However, as many have noticed, the execution of the plot survives only to the most superficial scrutiny. But it is damn ridiculous to complain about the inconsistencies, though, if we liked the movie. It's not like we don't know it's a film.
What does strike as slightly annoying is the length of the feature. Certainly this could have been more concise in the length of a normal film or more detailed and watchable in a three or four episode miniseries. As such, you can't wait for it to be over, waiting for the climactic ending that, alas, doesn't really come. Everything is explained in the end, but with a fizzling finale that holds no power and creates no emotion.
Beautiful Hayley Atwell and Rufus Seawell both made the film bearable due to their performance. Perhaps it would have been better to just discard the 1970's story and just tell the 1940 one from beginning to end. The Americans would have done so, ended the story with her escaping and quickly preparing a sequel. :)
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