Spooks: The Greater Good is an entertaining British thriller

Matthew Turner delivers his verdict on the big-screen spin off of hit BBC spy series Spooks

Relax, Spooks fans! The late-arriving big screen version of the hit BBC TV spy series (all ten seasons of it) is an entertaining, solidly made thriller that won’t disappoint the show’s legions of devotees. However, in striving to recreate the atmosphere of the TV show, the film fails to take advantage of its larger canvas, leaving this feeling more like an extended episode and less like a big screen spy thriller that could stand alongside the likes of Bond and Bourne.

Directed by series regular Bharat Nalluri (who helmed both the first and last episodes) and scripted by Spooks writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, the film is set in present-day Britain and begins with a major terrorist suspect (Elyes Gabel as Adem Qasim) escaping custody during a handover between MI:5 and the CIA. When Head of Counter-terrorism Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is scapegoated he goes to ground, hoping to root out the mole he believes is operating within the agency.

With Harry missing, a cadre of MI:5 bosses (Jennifer Ehle, David Harewood and Tim McInnerny) task decommissioned agent Will Holloway (Kit Harington) with tracking him down, exploiting his former status as Harry’s protégé. Working with rookie agent June (Tuppence Middleton), Will soon succeeds in his mission, but Harry convinces him to help expose the mole and, oh yes, save London from an imminent terrorist attack while he’s at it.

Hot from Game of Thrones and sporting his presumably contractually obligated face fuzz and hair-do, Harington delivers an engaging performance as Will – granted, he’s not the most expressive of actors, but he has genuine screen presence and his relative lack of emotion actually works in his favour here. Similarly, fan favourite Firth is clearly enjoying himself enormously and there’s strong support from acting stalwarts Ehle and McInnerny, as well as rising star Middleton.

Nalluri maintains a strong sense of pace throughout, aided by the fact that the central characters are kept constantly on the move. Similarly, the action sequences are decent and the production makes superb use of a number of London locations, particularly Brixton and the South Bank. In addition, the script maintains both the series’ moral complexity (the phrase “You can do good or you can do well” recurs several times) and its reputation for unexpectedly offing important cast members.

That’s not to say the film is without problems. For one thing, Gabel isn’t given enough screen time to make an impression as the film’s villain, so there’s no real sense of threat, even with an imminent terrorist attack in the offing. This is compounded by the fact that both the film and the characters seem much more worried about a CIA take-over of MI:5 than they are about London potentially going BOOM.

Ultimately, while it’s unlikely to kick-start a Bond or Bourne-rivalling franchise, this is an entertaining British thriller that will appeal to fans and newcomers alike, even if it does feel like it would be more at home on a small screen.

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