Page Eight with Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz BBC2 PREVIEW

Rachel Weisz and Bill Nighy. Pics: BBC/Heyday Films/Runaway Fridge/Carnival/NBC Universal

Rating ★★★★
BBC2 Sunday, 28 August, 9pm

Story: Johnny Worricker, an MI5 intelligence specialist, discovers that his best friend and boss, Benedict Baron, has died. The fall-out is that a dossier Benedict has left behind contains damaging information that could de-stabilise the security service – and perhaps the country.

The Beeb is chuffed that playwright and Oscar nominee David Hare has written and directed his first film in 20 years for them, and the result is a beautifully performed spy thriller with dialogue that rips along.

The terrific cast – headlined by Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis – play characters with such sharp wits and hidden agendas about them that it’s almost like an episode of Yes, Minister at times.

Rachel Weisz as the beautiful neighbour
Bill Nighy is the centre of the storm as Johnny Worricker, a senior MI5 veteran with an ex-wife, a distant daughter and an illicit affair on the go. His boss and friend, Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon), circulates a top secret dossier that contains damaging information about our American allies and illegal torture victims around the world.

When Benedict dies suddenly, Johnny is left to deal with the dangerous repercussions of Benedict’s secretly sourced dossier. At the same time, Johnny is both intrigued by and suspicious of his beautiful next door neighbour, Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz). ‘She was putting out the rubbish,’ he says of their first meeting. ‘Pretended it was a coincidence.’

Welcome to Johnny’s world, where a chance encounter with a delightful woman must be deemed suspicious. Trust is a recurring theme here. ‘Do you have any honest relationships?’ says Johnny’s daughter.

Michael Gambon – the smart, calculating MI5 boss
Amid the suspicions, there are many nice throwaway moments. ‘Mum always knows where you,’ Johnny’s daughter says early on. ‘Does she?’ he replies. ‘Paranormal is she?’

And Michael Gambon is a force of nature as the calculating, slightly cynical Benedict. ‘Things got so bad last night, I watched The X Factor.’

Elsewhere, Saskia Reeves is terrifically prickly as the Home Secretary, and Judy Davis is baleful as Johnny’s spiky MI5 colleague. It is after an ominous exchange with the latter that Johnny slips out of his job to dig for the truth about Benedict’s dossier.

Overtones of Tony Blair
Events can only take a fateful twist when a smiling Ralph Fiennes turns up as the Prime Minister. When an actor who specialises in characters such as Voldemort, Amon Goeth, Francis Dolarhyde and Hades appears, it could be time to start hissing.

There are heavy overtones of Tony Blair here, the former PM getting another fictional battering after Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. And when the double-talk gets treacherous – ‘If it can’t be corroborated, it can’t be correct’ – events turn murky and vindictive.

Page Eight is a world away from much of today’s mainstream crime/thriller fare, such as the adrenaline rush of Spooks or frights of Luther. It is what David Hare calls a human drama, character strong, and he is apparently so intrigued by Johnny Worricker’s predicament that he’s working on two more films about him (the BBC originally wanted a series).

Can Johnny trust anyone, and can he act with integrity? Watching him try is engrossing and even fun at times – and the jazz soundtrack really swings. 

Cast: Ralph Fiennes Alec Beasley, Rachel Weisz Nancy, Felicity Jones Julianne Worricker, Bill Nighy Johnny Worricker, Michael Gambon Benedict Baron, Ewen Bremner Rollo Madeley, Judy Davis Tankard, Tom Hughes Ralph Wilson, Holly Aird Anna, Saskia Reeves Anthea Catcheside, Richard Lintern Max Vallance

Comments

  1. Looks like a great series. will check out. Thanks

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: