Turks & Caicos, BBC2, Bill Nighy, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder PREVIEW

Winona Ryder and Bill Nighy in Turks & Caicos. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC2: Thursday, 20 March, 9pm

Story: Johnny Worricker is hiding out from MI5 in the West Indies, but an encounter with a CIA agent forces him into the company of some dubious American businessmen, as well as high-powered financial PR Melane Fall.

THIS IS the second of David Hare’s three films about the ex-intelligence agent Johnny Worricker, and it’s got an even starrier cast than the first, 2011’s Page Eight.

Perhaps Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder and Helena Bonham Carter were attracted by a shooting schedule in the Turks & Caicos Islands, the lush Caribbean setting for all manner of corruption in this thriller.

Or as Winona Ryder’s drunken, damaged PR woman Melanie Fall calls it, ‘That shitty little tax dodge

Christopher Walken

island.’ It is, of course, known as a offshore financial centre, and serves as a backdrop to the moral duplicity of the bankers and corporations who run our affairs.

Billy Nighy and Christopher Walken

But no doubt the cast were also attracted by Hare’s rich dialogue. Bill Nighy returns as the suave Worricker, now on the run from MI5 having displeased Prime Minister Ralph Fiennes in Page Eight. Turks & Caicos is his secret hideaway – until he is approached by a mysterious American, Curtis Pelissier, and his cover is blown.

If you need a mysterious American, Christopher Walken is the go-to guy. He livens things up by ruffling Johnny’s calmness, and then inviting him to an evening drink, where Johnny meets some shady New Jersey types and their PR woman, Melanie.

One of the businessmen turns up dead the next day, and Johnny, Curtis and Melanie are pitched into a

Rupert Graves and Bill Nighy

very dangerous intrigue that could see high-level people exposed as criminals. This is all while a big international gathering is arriving on the island of businessmen and politicians – including Johnny’s ex Margot (Helena Bonham Carter) and her shady boss, played by Rupert Graves.

Suspense without shootouts and corpses

What I felt about Turks & Caicos is that while it takes a decent shot at the machinations of international power elites, it lacks real anger at the fall-out from how governments and corporations misbehave. This is the elite end of the corruption – all very luxurious and almost seductive.

While there is tension, the film also has little feeling of danger to it. Johnny is too laid back to even break a sweat as the peril increases.

However, the dialogue is wry and the production wonderful to ogle at, while these star actors make

Helena Bonham Carter

their characters interesting and intriguing. Sir David Hare recently criticised the high body counts in crime/thriller TV and films, including the Scandinavian shows, and has said he wanted to restore some suspense in this trilogy without all the guns. The result is wordy but still enjoyable to watch.

Final part of the Worricker trilogy

Salting the Battlefield is the third film and will follow in a couple of weeks. Having shown the first part in 2011 it seems a little odd that the next two have been rushed out together two years down the line.

Is it my imagination or has the BBC been a little lacklustre in its support for Hare’s trilogy? It seems as though there has been little hoopla about what are prestigious productions with knockout casts.

Even Death in Paradise gets more of a fanfare.

Cast: Bill Nighy Johnny Worricker, Helena Bonham Carter Margot Tyrell, Rupert Graves Stirling Rogers, Winona Ryder Melanie Fall, Christopher Walken Curtis Pelissier, Dylan Baker Gary Bethwaite, Meredith Eaton Clare Clovis, Zach Grenier Dido Parsons, Julie Hewlett Natalie Helier, James Naughton Frank Church, Ewen Bremner Rollo Maverley, Ralph Fiennes Alec Beasley

Follow @crimetimeprev

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

%d bloggers like this: