A Choose Your Own Adventure Review of Spooks: The Greater Good

This is a review of Spooks: The Greater Good which was released in cinemas last weekend. If you just want to read about the film turn to section 3. If you would like a little bit of context first then carry on to section 1.

Section 1.
Generally when TV shows have chosen to continue their stories in cinemas it has been done well, particularly in America. We’re not talking about new versions here; right now I’m just thinking of times when the original cast stays on board and the whole thing transfers to the big screen in its original format. We’ll pick up on reinventions when The Man From U.N.C.L.E comes out in August.
The best of the bunch of these straight continuations is undoubtedly Firefly/Serenity but two generations of Star Trek have also produced some good films (some) and even The Muppets have given us at least two great movies. You could counter argue with things like Hannah Montana, The Crocodile Hunter and Sex and the City but they can be considered successful too. Sure, these ones may not be classics but they did at least managed to maintain the quality of what came before. It’s all relative. The possible exception is The X- Files where neither of the features reached the heights of Mulder & Scully’s main adventures but this is a particularly high benchmark and they certainly weren’t the worst instalments. All in all when these shows have moved from small screen to big it has worked.
If you want to read something about UK programmes that have been turned into films continue to section 2. If you’re done with other TV shows and want to know about Spooks go to section 3. 
Section 2.
With British programs becoming movies the success has been a little more varied. Interestingly most of the examples here have been comedies with Are You Being Served, Guest House Paradiso, The Inbetweeners, The League of Gentleman, Mr Bean and of course Monty Python. (I will let you be the judge of which were hits and which were misses. Personally I think Shaun the Sheep has probably done it better than anyone on these shores.)
Section 3. 
Spooks: The Greater Good is born of the successful BBC MI5 drama which featured, among others, David Oyelowo, Jenny Agutter, Hugh Laurie, Keeley Hawes, Matthew Mcfadyen, Tim McInnerny, Anna Chancellor, Simon Russell Beale, Thorin Oakenshield and series mainstay Peter Firth.
Bringing Spooks to movie houses now could be seen as an odd decision. First off it’s not a sitcom and there seems to be some precedent there but also it ran for ten series and ended fairly conclusively four years ago. Add to this that with Mission Impossible 5, Kingsman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E and Spectre 2015 is heavily peppered with spy films already.
If you loved Spooks on TV progress to section 4. If you were only ever a passing viewer or never saw the show skip to section 5.
Section 4.
Of course the value of picking up on existing properties is that the film already has an audience and if you were a fan of Spooks you will get a great thrill out of seeing Harry Pearce back in action. He is in action too; gone are the days of Harry sitting behind a desk or against a bank of computers calling the shots. The man is out there, off the grid, crossing borders and crossing lines.
Harry is pretty much the only one who’s back though and I’ll tell you now that if you are holding your breath for the triumphant return of key agents like Tom and Zoe then you’ll be disappointed. Part of the problem here, of course, is that most of them are dead.
That was one of the great things about Spooks; no one was safe. The sense of jeopardy was alway high on this show as any one of the team could and often would die. You think Joss Whedon deserves his rep for killing off his main players? Pah! Amateur! Since we are dealing with mostly new people this sense of real concern for the protagonists is retained but inevitably you don’t care as much. Still there is genuine tension.
Section 5.
Taken on its own merits as a feature length motion picture Spooks: The Greater Good is an entertaining couple of hours. It clearly doesn’t have the budget of its American equivalents but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cinematic. It would be easy to look at the film with its television origins and question why it is in multiplexes but things do play out on a different scale. There are some very impressive stunts and fight scenes and lots of shots taken from helicopters.
If you are happy for the review to get a little bit anglocentric proceed to section 6. If you can’t stomach such sentimental flag waving skip to section 7. 
Section 6.
This aerial camera work also showcases the main location and both from the sky and the ground London looks fantastic. This isn’t a Hollywood version of the city either, as seen in Fast 5 and Welcome to the Punch, it is a believable place where people live and work and have car chases and shoot outs. In fact more than just having a London location the movie is unashamedly and authentically British in a way that Bond has never managed. There’s just something too polished and slick about 007, especially now, and those of us that live here know that the UK is a little bit more rough around the edges than that. It’s okay, we’re comfortable with it, it’s home. The film is openly feisty about its independence and refusal to be banded in with the States too which also feels typically Limey.
Section 7.
Even though the scale of Spooks is now bigger than when it was playing in our living rooms they’ve not gone overboard. It still feels like the same story and some of the more powerful moments still happen in chairs.
The set up has Harry disgraced after a botched operation and he goes AWOL to uncover the corruption he suspects exists within the agency. Limited in the number of people he can trust he recruits decommissioned spy Will Holloway to help him. The lengths he goes to in his mission are extreme and it seems that Sir Harry has become dangerously obsessed with protecting the secret service he has given his life to. Harry has actually gone a little mad but you can see how this might happen after years of frustration with naive politicians and other ineffectual superiors. On occasion it is surprising how far he is prepared to go.
If you loved Spooks and don’t want to hear a bad word about it move to section 9. If you want the full picture carry on to section 8.
Section 8. 
Unfortunately Spooks: The Greater Good is not anywhere near as good as the best episodes from its decade on TV. It is actually pretty preposterous and is only going to be loved by the most nostalgic of fans.
The problem is that the character motivations just aren’t believable, none of them; there isn’t a single person here that behaves rationally. It’s no wonder Harry is paranoid but he’s the worst offender. He’s always been cold, the job will do that to you, but now he is borderline psychotic and that’s a leap.
Section 9. The Ripley Factor:
Women are quite well represented in the film as they alway were in the show. The story centres around two men but there are brave, empowered, flawed and relatively realistic females around them at every level.
Is this one for the kids? 
Spooks: The Greater Good is rated 15. It isn’t overly violent but people do die. No one gets their head shoved into a deep fat fryer but you wouldn’t want your kids to see it all same.
There is also one particular line that might have got it the higher rating all by itself.
The End

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