In effort to watch new films, I wasn’t going to count this one purely because it was made for TV. But that seems rather arbitrary since I watch most films on the small(ish) screen anyway.
Also, after watching, I found I wanted to write about it. So if it’s too much like cheating, well, I’ll up my goal to 26 films instead of 25.
Why did I watch it?
Primarily because I’d watched Page Eight (2011) to which this is a sequel. Both films are by David Hare and star Bill Nighy (who I always find entertaining) as Johnny Worricker. I was sufficiently impressed by Page Eight to want more. I’ll admit David Hare’s political writing doesn’t always excite or convince me, but I still admire his work, and the way his dialogue and characters can evoke a mood and atmosphere so effectively.
Did it meet expectations?
It’s actually better than Page Eight, in my view, for a number of reasons. There’s less of the strangely soapy incestuousness – although the key source for the crucial evidence in this does just happen to be a particularly important old flame (Helena Bonham Carter). The rather two-dimensional polticians (in particularly Ralph Fiennes’ Blairite Alec Beasley) are relegated to backdrop with no Whitehall corridors for them to populate in this one. And the setting – a British Overseas Territory off Florida – is rather refreshing. Nighy, who I always find entertaining, shows a pleasingly fleeting glimpse of Worricker’s steeliness.
Once again the guest cast is impressive, and Christopher Walken is excellent value as an old-school CIA man. But it’s Winona Ryder who stands out, and who makes this play so watchable. I don’t think I’ve seen Ryder in anything post-90s (and I did particularly love Heathers) and her wide-eyed and damaged drifter is completely mesmerising. Every second her character was off screen, I was waiting for her to reappear.
You should watch it if…
- You enjoy theatrical writing and performances on screen.
- You’re a Winona Ryder fan.
You shouldn’t watch it if…
- You think spy films should be as action packed as Bond or Bourne, rather than just people having a series of meetings.
- You like political plots to have at least as much nuance or complexity as a Le Carré.
Next up: The World’s End (2013)