Spooks: The Greater Good (15, 104 mins)
Director: Bharat Nalluri
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Spooks finished its television run on the BBC four years ago after nearly a decade of spy action. It’s a curious thing to bring to the big screen, a show which no doubt has a loyal following, but also one that needs to work to satisfy long-term fans but also stand alone and be accessible to newcomers.
Whether it manages the first can only be answered by those in the know, but that it undoubtedly manages the second is to its great credit. It begins with a prisoner transport, with a terrorist named Qasim being moved in an armed convoy, with his bad guy cohorts in pursuit.
The CIA are miffed that Qasim is on the loose, and Harry is forced to carry the can, leaving him out of a job and faking his own death in order to do his own digging. This in turn forces Harry’s former bosses to bring in Will Holloway (Kit Harington), an ex agent currently in Moscow who is brought back to London to track down Harry. Harry has disappeared, intent on finding the mole himself while also trying to stop Qasim from orchestrating a major attack on London.
It’s once Harry and Will get together that the film starts piling on backstory and histories which may or may not be part of the show’s mythology. It doesn’t really matter, since it works just fine either way, and it’s soon clear that this is serious, tough stuff, full of life and death decisions that give the title its resonance.
Harington may be the marquee guest star, but Firth is the beating heart of Spooks and Harry is a tremendous character, and pretty much the only main player to have made the transition from the TV show. Honourable, but also dangerous, uncompromising and full of tricks, his insistence that agents can either do well, which is to follow orders, or do good, which is to do the right thing, gives the film an edge of questionable morality over others of its ilk.
Wisely it doesn’t try to overplay the action though, with the focus on intrigue making it gripping as a result. Mostly it’s very good at detailing actual spy-work, something that’s often missing from modern day espionage movies. It’s Bond without the superhero, mired in politics and really quite absorbing, with secrets and hidden codes all part of the shenanigans of this particular spy game.
The plot barrels along, twisting this way and that, stretching out several genuinely tense sequences, and always leaving the question hanging of who is on what side. Some previous investment in this world might offer even more value, but even for audiences discovering Spooks for the first time it’s still a lot of fun.