24 May 2016 | hughman55
The Spy Who Loved Me
The title of this fantastic series, "London Spy", may be just a little misleading. If you are looking for a well written, edge of your seat, spy story, you've found it here. "London Spy" is an atmospheric, very stylistic, story of the human condition and spies. However, the international intrigue angle of this series is secondary to, but tightly woven through, a love story between Danny and Alex. They meet briefly, by chance, when Alex is on his early morning jog and Danny is at the end of a long night of partying. It is a metaphor for the opposite ends of life, and the world, from which they will come together. Their awkward relationship is a departure from their entrenched and established lives up to that point. Danny is a party boy at the end of a misspent youth and Alex is an overachiever at the end of a youthful, self-imposed, isolation. Together, they find solace in their unlikely love for one another.
I won't talk about the plot here and give away the well written suspense devices but I will say that something happens between Alex and Danny that calls into question Alex's true identity, his intentions, and his sincerity. Things become inexplicable and unpredictable. And for reasons unknown, everyone; Danny's best friend, Alex's mother, the police, everyone, seems invested in convincing Danny that Alex, and their relationship, is a fraud. Danny finds a coded thumb drive among Alex's belongings that seems to hold answers to something; possibly everything. But he does not have the code and therefore can't read it. What ensues from here is a labyrinthine journey through the world of hidden powers, unlikely loyalties, and Danny's questionable past.
These five episodes are brilliantly written, filmed, and the performances are off the charts amazing. Ben Wishaw is just quite frankly one of the most talented and interesting actors working today. He is in every scene. And as brilliant as his construction of a character is, his ability to step aside and "listen" through a scene demonstrates a talent that is truly unique. Charlotte Rampling, with saddest and most seductive eyes in film, is still statuesque and formidable, and gives one of the best performances of her long and storied career. Her voice lilts with soothing assurance as her words cut you off at the knees. Jim Broadbent? Nuf said. Riccardo Scarmarcio, as a heartless male escort, is as alluring as he is repellent. His one scene in episode 4 is hypnotic. Samantha Spiro as a London police detective shows American actresses how to be powerful and threatening without adopting superficial mannish affectations. She is fierce and effective. You do not want to be interrogated by this woman. Mark Gatiss as a record producer, drug provider, orgy organizer, out of Danny's past is as skeevy as they come. He does not have one redeeming quality and he plays it without a micron of shame. Who ever plays a villain this well?
This screenplay by Tom Rob Smith is well written and the cast and director Jakob Verbruggen, pull it all together into a compelling and riveting story. How this story line is parsed out, clues rationed, and then knitted together at the end is fantastic. The cinematography is just manic in the best possible way. The camera swirls around the actors like a shark around a swimmer, pans from mouth to mouth in a conversation literally carrying the dialogue across open space from character to character, pulls in so tight that at times the only image on the screen is the contour of a cheekbone or a speaking mouth. The necktie scene in the opening of episode 2 is powerful because of how beautifully it's filmed.
I have only one complaint . The fifth episode goes a little weak, and has "The End" written all over it. As in, no season 2. This mini series does cater to a fairly narrow audience I guess. There is nothing vulgar or obscene about it but it does contain and imply some rather exotic sexual practices "enjoyed" by both straight and gay people alike. But in this case, by gay people. That may be a bridge too far for some but the quality of this work and the story line of this project more than justifies it. And it never seems out of balance or exploitative. See, again here, I don't want to give away why. You just have to see it for yourself and trust. It is well worth the journey.