A Spy Among Friends review – don’t take your eyes off this star-packed espionage thriller

6 months ago 87

The communicative of the notorious MI6 cause and Soviet spy Kim Philby has been told galore times before, but A Spy Among Friends (ITVX) has a caller bash astatine it, utilizing Ben Macintyre’s publication of the aforesaid sanction arsenic its root and inspiration. The stakes are high. This is 1 of the flagship dramas to motorboat ITV’s revamped online subordinate and caller subscription service. It comes with a starry formed and what should beryllium an irresistible communicative of intrigue, double-crossing and suspense, stretched retired implicit aggregate locations from Istanbul, Beirut and London to Moscow and Ohio.

It begins with the large uncover that Philby (Guy Pearce) is simply a traitor who has been moving for the KGB and feeding them intel for the past 20 years. His adjacent person and chap SIS (AKA MI6) cause Nicholas Elliott (Damian Lewis) is tasked with going to Beirut to retrieve Philby and extract a afloat confession, contempt appearing to uncertainty the extent of his friend’s betrayal. It becomes a benignant of espionage stew astatine this point, jumping astir successful clip from the aboriginal days of Philby and Elliott’s relationship successful the 2nd satellite war, to MI5’s 1963 interrogation of Elliott, to enactment retired who knew what astir Philby and when.

This is not the benignant of play 1 tin ticker with an oculus connected thing else. Heaven forbid you get distracted by a substance message; determination are a mates of instances wherever I had to rewind respective minutes due to the fact that I concisely looked away. There are truthful galore layers to peel back. Elliott is looking into Philby’s betrayals, but MI5 are looking into Elliott and Philby and MI6, and everyone progressive is hoping the CIA doesn’t find retired astir it earlier they get their ducks successful a row. That is simply a batch of spy-on-spy spying.

Lily Thomas (Anna Maxwell Martin).
Spy-on-spy spying! … Lily Thomas (Anna Maxwell Martin). Photograph: Ed Miller/Sony Pictures Television

There’s nary denying that this is simply a fabulous cast. Lewis is suitably ambiguous arsenic Elliott, who carries with him the wounded of a jilted person and the disorder of a antheral whose full content strategy is falling apart. Pearce makes Philby’s charisma evident for each to see, and makes the astir of his range, whether that’s taking portion successful a West End opus and creation oregon dealing with the fallout from his unmasking. Anna Maxwell Martin plays Lily Thomas, an MI5 cause looking into what precisely happened. Lily is simply a “composite” of existent people, an invention to transportation the play along. When she sits down to business, astatine a table with a portion recorder, Line of Duty fans volition surely beryllium waiting for that agelong beep. “Could you explicate to maine wherefore you fto the astir unsafe Soviet penetration cause this state has ever known limb it?” she asks, sternly, arsenic we larn however Philby was capable to abscond.

There are plentifulness of tiny thrills to beryllium had from a satellite built connected codes and treble meanings. Men with umbrellas speech instructions successful newspapers; names are seemingly mispronounced, successful bid to convey a clandestine message. The astir intriguing codification of all, which A Spy Among Friends excels astatine exploring, is that of people and tradition. There is an upper-echelons phantasy of Englishness astatine play. MI6 is an aged boys’ web wherever decisions of planetary value are hashed retired successful members’ clubs and connected cricket pitches. When that is questioned by 1 of their ain pledging his allegiance to the communist cause, they are astir arsenic baffled and offended arsenic they are alarmed. But the aged satellite is changing, and Thomas – northern, female, joined to a Black doc – is expected to correspond that. It’s laid connected a spot thick, but Maxwell Martin conscionable astir carries it off.

Yet ironically, fixed that it deals with the autumn of the stuffy aged guard, there’s thing a small stuffy and uptight astir the full thing. There is plentifulness of excitement successful the worldly – ambushes, bombs, chases, executions, and, of course, a royal connection, erstwhile Sir Anthony Blunt turns up – yet it inactive manages to resistance its feet. It tries to get astir the complexity of the crippled with a fig of conversations simply explaining what is going on. These are utile but oddly static, and surely dilatory the momentum. Perhaps it suffers from an unfortunate examination with different caller bid adapted from a Macintyre book, SAS Rogue Heroes, which channels its fascinating past acquisition into thing acold much vivacious and entertaining. This is each precise good and elegant, but it’s lacking successful charisma.

  • A Spy Among Friends is disposable connected ITVX successful the UK and BritBox successful Australia

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