With John Le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy past its prime at the box office, fans of intelligent spy movies may be feeling at a loss. Page Eight tries to fill the gap. Unlike the Mission Impossibles of the big screen, this recent DVD release by BBC Masterpiece Theatre is slow-paced with first-class acting and played with the subtlety of a jazz note.
MI-5 agent Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a British agent from the old school. He inhabits a world of international intrigue and fine art collecting-when he's not too busy with regrets over how he treated his ex-wife, as well as the daughter he deserted in infancy.
Still, Worricker has a romantic existence until he discovers a conspiracy to cover up illegal torture in the war on terror. Suddenly, he's forced to risk everything-his life and the reputation of his country-to uncover the truth. Complicating that mission is the death of his fellow agent, Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon), and a budding romance with neighbor Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz), whose brother was killed in a peaceful Palestinian protest. Could there be a connection?
Unfortunately, any connection between this movie and Le Carré's ends here. Politically, Page Eight is about as simplistically liberal as you can get. America, bad. Britain, bad. Rogue British agent, good. You know you're in too deep when a New York Times reviewer admits your movie is "the right cast in the right setting with a wrongfully righteous script." And with Director David Hare's prejudices on display at every turn (see his anti-Iraq-war play, Stuff Happens), the plot lumbers toward its conclusion with the agility of a British man-of-war.