|Index||9 reviews in total|
In the final installment of David Hare's Worricker trilogy, ex-MI5
analyst Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) pops up in Germany. He's still on
the run from the British authorities, who are now aided by the German
intelligence service in the cat-and-mouse game of tracking him down.
The scandal involving the shady dealings of the British Prime Minister
(Ralph Fiennes) is threatening to break in the open. A wind of change
is palpable and one gets the feeling that events are finally heading to
a showdown. It was always difficult to keep up the quality and suspense
after the excellent first two films. For one, I found there was just a
little too much explaining at the beginning rather than trusting in the
intelligence of the viewer. So 'Salting' is probably the weakest of the
trilogy, but weaker than excellent is still very good. I particularly
liked the circular quality of the ending and the fact that, as in life,
none of the main characters comes out as a real winner.
The acting and the production values, as in the other episodes, are consistently excellent. The sensitive camera work supports the intricate mood changes and turns in conversations. Paul Englishby's Jazz tracks are a perfect match for Worricker's character. In a recent interview with Zap2it, Bill Nighy said that he would love David Hare to write more 'Worricker' for him. It's going to be a tough call to come up with an original storyline and to keep up the quality, but I for one wouldn't mind if he tried.
Intentionally or otherwise, this review of the 3rd instalment of the
series follows the actual script for the series.
In other words, just like the revelations that the central character must deal with in the story, we viewers also must cope with good news and bad news.
The bad news is that on the basis of pure entertainment, this is the weakest instalment. The fault here is that expectations were too high. The first two presented powerful and charismatic actors who popped in and out of nowhere. This sort of trope is missing here. The first two presented Nighy's character as a sort of white knight who potentially could bend an entire system to his will while he righted perceived wrongs. This final episode introduces reality into that hope.
The good news is that if you are going to narrow the focus of a film to the core stars, you could do worse than these stars. There is a scene near the close where Fiennes and Nighy finally get a face to face. It is a short scene but so powerful it could curl your hair without a curling iron. As it plays out, you realize the entire series was building to that one scene. Maybe Nighy's character is too naive for modern geo-politics. Maybe the extra eye candy is missing from this episode. Maybe the third Act is just about loose ends. But this is still spy drama at its best.
'Salting the Battelfield' is one of two new television films by playwright David Hare, following up on an earlier film of his about a renegade British spy; and having (mostly) praised the first, 'Turcs and Caicos', I now feel obliged to criticise the second, even though the two are more similar than different. The critiques are two: firstly, the story takes place in a beautiful Britain full of beautiful people, I may like Helena Bonham Carter as much as the next man, but she really doesn't make a very convincing spy, and the elegiac music gives the whole piece a "sun sets sadly on the glorious British Empire" feel at odds with the reality of the nature of modern society and its contribution to the growth of Islamic terrorism. This film is indeed supposedly about terrorism, and the threat (or opportunity) that it offers to the state; but we never get a glimpse of anything that might be a cause of it. Indeed, the second criticism is that we rarely get a glimpse of anything, much; when Bill Nighy's character has an argument with his daughter, it's nicely scripted as far as it goes, but we know nothing to allow us to judge the man, his words and his feelings; and its emblematic of an entire drama where the cast talk around the issues but the audience is never sufficiently well-briefed. Is the Prime Minister paranoid, a con-man, or does he really believe he is doing the best for his country; the film is good on the psychology here, but poorer on the political (to the extent that the PM is doing his best, then the real, unanswered question is, to what extent is he right?). The praise I had for Hare's earlier film also holds true here (though to a slightly lesser extent): the elliptical dialogue is a treat, even if it sometimes frustrates. But what frustrates most is that Hare, who personally is a very political man, seems unsure of what he wants to say here; and leaves us with a portrait of the delicate moral dilemmas of the upper middle class that seems as far away from the life most of us actually live as the Turcs and Caicos islands themselves.
The Johnny Worricker trilogy concludes with Salting the Battlefield.
Our hero with his ex girlfriend, Margot (Helena Bonham-Carter) are
criss- crossing Europe trying to stay one step ahead of the security
services and a vengeful Prime Minister. However if you must go out for
a coffee early in the morning then chances are you will be spotted.
Worricker is being watched, his family and friends are being watched. He is running out of cash and he needs to make a move to reach an endgame.
The film does not mention a date, the name of the governing political party but we can guess this is a New Labour administration set a few years ago and although writer/director has stated that Alec Beasley is a new type of Prime Minister and Ralph Fiennes gives him a healthy dash of Lambert La Roux (The media mogul from a previous Hare play, Pravda) we can sense there is a lot of Tony Blair imbued in the character and events.
We do reach an end game as Worricker feeds the press and confronts the Prime Minister, not without Beasley asking difficult but loaded questions in return which was a very New Labour thing to do.
The Worricker trilogies have been enjoyable, despite the location shooting they were very much glorified stage plays, almost bottle dramas. I did feel Hare the writer would had benefited from someone else directing who would had bought a more visual flair and pacy action.
What we do get are uniformly well acted dramas, sterlingly led by a very feline Bill Nighy but they required more demands from the viewers than it needed because it was stilted here and there.
And while there are far better endings of trilogies, remember this was
made for TV. And yes I do know there is quite a lot of great TV work
out there (particular in the TV show/series area), but I still think
this warrants a 7 rather than a 6. The acting alone is really superb
and while the story may be predictable (especially if you've seen the
previous two entries), it still works.
Do you have to have seen the other two movies? I reckon not, but you do get the relationships between certain characters a lot quicker if you do. And they are fun to watch or at least entertaining and suspenseful enough to warrant that.
I really like 'Page Eight', the first movie in this trilogy. 'Turks & Caicos', the second movie, wasn't as good, but it was OK. This last movie was as good as the first one! All in all, a very good set. I really enjoyed them. If you enjoyed 'Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy' (1979) and 'Smiley's People' (1982) both by the BBC then you will enjoy this series too. It's the same style of movies/mini-series about the world of spies. The old BBC mini-series are classics, both of them, and 10 out of 10. This trilogy is 8/10. Bill Nighy (as Johnny Worricker) is the lead character in all three movies and he does a great job. Ralph Fiennes is also very good as the Prime Minister. The only actor I didn't like was Helena Bonham Carter: like someone else has already stated she didn't make a very convincing spy.
Nothing is perfect but sometimes we have to be grateful for large mercies. In view of the generally mindless dreck that is offered on the screen (big or small) David Hare has at least given us intelligent dialogue written for adults and spoken clearly by a cast of actors who know what they're doing. No faux dramatic, over-amplified background music and no extraneous background noise ... we're here to hear people speak not how noisy the traffic is on a London street. It goes without saying that Bill Nighy is Worricker personified and it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role ... all that world-weary patience; it was good to see him finally lose his cool in the final episode and lash out as everything seemed to be falling apart. Highly recommended.
A remarkable cast was assembled for this: Ralph Fiennes, Helena
Bonham-Carter, Bill Nighy, Olivia Wilde, a who's who of British acting.
There are spies and politics, a prestigious writer, so why did this end
up being so dull? It is hard to fault the acting, but the script
somehow manages to plod along with barely any tension. It seems more
like a talking shop from an Islington dinner party than an action
packed spy thriller. I enjoyed Fiennes' suspiciously Blair-like prime
minister, and indeed the performances all round are fine, with Mr Nighy
portraying a silken if disgruntled ex-spook. Yet the action, such as it
is,, trundles along at a funereal pace.
Perhaps Mr Hare's undoubted talents are better suited to the stage than to the moving picture. I can't see this leading him to being asked to write.a Jason Bourne screenplay any time soon.
international cast, exotic locales, big production values can never
hide a poor story hiding behind this 3 parter. I was extremely
disappointed by the moody staring between protagonists that never moved
the story forward. Over and over again, I kept thinking, 'okay
sociopaths run governments, but I've seen this over and over again
---and sociopaths employing psychopaths still run governments.
There was never an edge with this series; never a wake-up call. Was the point most people are whores and sellouts at the end? Or was it to give up and take what you get from public officialdom? The UK puts out superior drama to America, but the money spent on cast, locations, production values, I've come to expect more than this lame half baked story. I wasn't prepared for the Bourne Conspiracy extra-lite, but I guess that is what I got, despite expectations. BBC should send all writers, the director and producers into exile to the Sudan for two years making documentaries, such they can learn not to waste so much public money on inferior television
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