Four years since the ending of the hit BBC TV series Spooks, comes The Greater Good, a feature length adventure for MI5’s section D. We follow Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), the long-serving head of department, as he incurs the wrath of the CIA, not to mention his own team, when a major terrorist Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabe) escapes on his watch.
In disgrace, and with an incomplete mission on his conscience, Harry disappears.
Concerned, her Majesty’s bigwigs convince ex-agent Will Holloway, played in role-share between Kit Harington and Jon Snow’s hair, with the hope that his personal connection to Harry will prove an advantage (that's Will, not the hair). Naturally though, Harry being Harry, nothing is as straightforward as it seems. The two must negotiate a tangled web of morality, laws and loyalty as London is threatened by a terrorist attack, and the future of MI5 itself hangs in the balance.
The Greater Good is full of twists, turns and surprises, and largely remains true to the TV series. The franchise’s attitude to killing off its characters has always been gung-ho at best, and this is true here. There are also some fantastic set pieces and shots of London to feast your eyes on. Rightly or wrongly, Spooks was always about defending our capital from malign outside forces, and again, that’s exactly what we get in this feature length outing.
Kit Harington is very good as the tortured moral compass of the film, although his character could have been pushed much further. In fact there was very little in the way of character exploration full stop, unless that character was Harry. The TV series made him its focus in later years, and rightly so, but here it felt at the expense of everyone else on screen. All the other agents, looked and felt a little flat. I also feel like the writers probably owe Lara Pulver an apology, but that’s by the by.
On a wider lebel, it was also a little lacking in terms of what terrorist Adem Qasim really wanted, other than revenge. Like it or not, we’re much more aware of the people, and the human stories, behind extremism than we were when Spooks was last on our screens, and we needed more than a cardboard cut-out terror leader to reflect that.
The plot was decent enough, although nothing that you couldn’t really have worked out for yourself. We’re so used to seeing Harry going against the orders of his superiors, that this didn’t really feel like anything new. As a result it was a little too linear, with too much character over content, if anything. Which I’m not normally one to complain about. In fact, dare I say it, it all felt a little too Hollywood.
On the plus side, there are a few things in there that will make long-time fans very, very happy. I squeaked with joy at the re-appearance of one character in particular. There was also some convincing exploration of the psychology, and ultimately the loneliness of working for the security services. Harry’s reference to the shortness of the list of ex-spies he trusts, when you exclude ‘the mad and the drunk and the dead’, was particularly telling.
If The Greater Good suffers from anything, it’s simply not quite having the heart of the TV series, the ending of which was so perfect, that, creatively at least, you can’t help but feel like they were wrong to tamper with it at all.
It’s an enjoyable film and worth seeing, especially as an existing fan, but ultimately it’s just not quite as good as an episode of the show it was based on. Not enough to make you angry, or complain that you wasted your hard earned money on a ticket, but enough to make you a little bit sad. Sad that these characters have been trotted out again for our amusement for seemingly little more than commercial gain.
But mostly sad that we can’t see this slick, subtle and clever TV show on our small screens anymore.