Tag Archives: Espionage

TVonDVD: Callan – Set 2: British Cold War Spy Series is Chilling!

Beginning in 1967, Callan, starring Edward Woodward – best known for The Equalizer and the original The Wicker Man – portrayed David Callan on a spy series that was as dark as the Cold War.

Callan, Set 2

Callan was, as he puts it, “a sergeant who was promoted to private,” before he was forced out of the army and into The Section – a unique little British intelligence organization that was frequently at cross purposes with the police and other intelligence agencies.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Quantum of Solace: Vengeance is Mine, Quoth Bond!

If you’ve seen Casino Royale, then you’ve gotten all the character development you need to enjoy Quantum of Solace, the latest adventure of MI6 operative James Bond [Daniel Craig] – but it’s not all the characterization you’ll get before the film ends. This film, which begins twenty minutes after the end of Casino Royale is a sleek action flick that – while it may be influenced by what Paul Greengrass did with the last two Jason Bourne films – manages to use some of the handheld techniques from the Bourne trilogy without ever moving completely away from the equally kinetic but different style of the previous film.

Bond & Camille

Here, Bond is out to avenge the death of the only woman he ever loved. The problem, he learns, is that her killer is part of a global network dedicated to take over the planet by perverting the fight against global warming to their own ends. The film’s most visible antagonist is Dominic Greene [Mathieu Amalric], the front for an organization of alleged ecological crusaders. Complicating things is a woman who is after the man who killed her family – and is now working with Green.

Quantum, it turns out, is the name of this shadowy organization and their claim that they are everywhere is supported by an attempt on M’s [Judy Dench] life by her own bodyguard. Circumstances dictate that she cut Bond loose to do what he does best – while looking like she’s trying to get him to stand down. It gets even more complex from there though Bond’s ability to suss out information from the slimmest resources gets him through it in fine style

Marc Forster’s direction, as mentioned above is somewhat influenced by the Bourne films, but he skilfully weaves unexpected character moments throughout in a way that’s so invisible that many reviewers have found the film devoid of characterization. Such is not the case – though much of Quantum’s character moments come through choices Bond makes in the midst of action.

The action sequences are breathtaking throughout, but the bookends of the opening chase/fight sequence and the wall of destruction just before the film’s conclusion are among the best I’ve ever seen. The cast is excellent as well – especially Olga Kurylenko as Camille – the woman who, like Bond, has vengeance on her mind [her situation at the end may have something to do with her not sleeping with Bond, but that’s a subject for Bond fanatics to debate.

Amalric makes a good villain for two reasons: acting skill [and knowing when not to chew the scenery], and the fact that his eyes seem just a tad bit too large for his face [just enough to be creepy; not enough to be funny]. In terms of sheer presence, none of the other Quantum employees/conspirators matches him.

Overall, then, while Quantum of Solace won’t be making any top ten best films lists for 2008, it is in no way a bad film. Rather, it is one of the half-dozen best Bond films – and that’s not too shabby.

Final Grade: B+

TELEVISION: My Own Worst Enemy – Jekyll & Hyde & The Spying Game!

Call it a hunch, but I suspect that NBC’s My Own Worst Enemy [Mondays, 10/9C] will be greeted by a lot of critics with cries of “It’s silly,” and “What the heck was that?” – which is kind of a shame. The series, which stars Christian Slater as super-spy/sociopath Edward Albright and nice guy husband/father/efficiency expert, Henry Spivey, is a hybrid of the Bourne movies and the latest British mini-series take on Jekyll & Hyde, Jekyll.

Henry-Edward

When Spivey begins to remember being in places like Paris – where’s he’s never been, it leads to a bleeding of two distinct identities into each other. He soon learns that other employees of his consultants firm also have two identities and that he has been manufactured to give espionage superstar Edward Albright a completely effective cover for his downtime between assignments.

This causes problems for both personalities – Spivey suddenly awakens during one of Albright’s assignments and Albright wakes up in Spivey’s life. The results cause havoc for their boss/handler, Mavis Heller [Alfre Woodard], who might have to erase Spivey – but the two personalities figure out how to communicate with each other [in the same way that Tom Jackman and Hyde communicated in the Jekyll mini-series] and things begin to take even stranger turns.

I’m not saying that My Own Worst Enemy isn’t far-fetched. I’m not even saying that it doesn’t get silly in spots. What I am saying is that, like the BBC with Jekyll, NBC is taking a risk with a series that tries to do something fresh and different. I’m saying that My Own Worst Enemy is an entertaining hour of dark and light; a series that combines family drama and spy show with some genuine imagination. It blends Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Ludlum in a way that shoots for the fence – and might just pull it off, in time.

Slater does some decent work with both characters – and their lives. Besides Woodard, the excellent cast includes Madchen Amick [Mrs. Angelica Spivey], Saffron Burrows [Dr. Norah Skinner, the psychiatrist who monitors Spivey for problems associated with Edward], Mike O’Malley [Henry’s best friend, Tom/Edward’s fellow spy, Raymond], and Bella Thorne and Taylor Lautner [Henry’s children, Ruth and Jack].

The series creator, Jason Smilovic [Karen Sisco, Lucky Number Slevin, Kidnapped, Bionic Woman], may be onto something here. His pilot script, Breakdown, may be more than a little overstuffed, but director David Semel keeps it moving and hits some prime beats from the get-go. Simply put, there’s more here to like than not.

Final Grade: B-