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

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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

2011’s brand new TV crime dramas and thrillers

Vera starring Brenda Blethyn (pic: ITV)

Powerful new series are lined up to make 2011 a memorable year for TV crime drama. The breadth and variety of programmes, from the UK and the US, looks terrific. Most of these programmes are in production or finished but not scheduled yet.

The Body Farm
BBC1 has just announced The Body Farm, a spin-off from Waking the Dead, with Tara Fitzgerald reprising her character from the series, Eve Lockhart. This six-parter, made for the Beeb by Waking the Dead actor Trevor Eve’s company, Projector Productions, kicks off with a 90-minute episode. Eve will be working at a private forensics facility that receives human remains for experiment, and assist police forces around the world. Filming starts in the spring.

Page Eight
A powerhouse cast has been signed up by BBC2 for Page Eight, David Hare’s first original screenplay for 20 years. Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Judy Davis, Michael Gambon and Ralph Fiennes will appear in this modern-day espionage drama. Johnny Worricker (Nighy) is a long-serving M15 officer. His boss and best friend, Benedict Baron (Gambon), dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file which threatens the stability of the organisation. David Hare, playwright and Oscar nominee, says, ‘The last decade has been as testing as any in the history of the British intelligence community – the compromises and dilemmas they’ve faced in the new century make a fascinating story. I’m thrilled to be working with such an extraordinary ensemble of great actors.’

Boardwalk Empire
Sky Atlantic launches on 1 February, bringing the much anticipated Boardwalk Empire from Sky’s deal with HBO. This 1920s tale of Prohibition Atlantic City is inspired by the real figure of ‘Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buscemi), a corrupt politician who ruled the town with a mixture of charm and deals with the likes of Al Capone (Stephen Graham) and ‘Lucky’ Luciano (Vincent Piazza). The opening episode apparently cost $20m and was directed by Martin Scorsese. Other highlights include Blue Bloods, a tale about a family of New York cops, and another chance to see the multiple Emmy and Golden Globe-winning The Sopranos.

The Field of Blood
Set in Glasgow, 1982, this BBC crime drama centres on would-be journalist Paddy Meehan, a young copygirl working in a newspaper office. Stuck in an almost exclusively male-dominated world of limited opportunities and cynicism, Paddy dreams of becoming an investigative journalist, and becomes entangled in a dark murder case. Adapted from the Denise Mina novel.

The Reckoning (previously Helter Skelter)
Starring Ashley Jenson and Max Beesley, this ITV thriller has been held over from Christmas and should go out in March. It’s a rather daft premise, about a mum given a life-or-death proposition – she’s been bequeathed £5m, but to receive it she must kill a ‘man who deserves to die’. It just so happens, she has a daughter with a brain tumor who needs an expensive op in America. Could it be better than it sounds?

Exile
A three-part BBC drama with Paul Abbott as an executive producer. It’s the story of a son returning to probe the history of his family, and the digging into a scandal two decades old, whose effects still live on.

Case Histories
Six-part BBC series from acclaimed novelist Kate Atkinson. Private investigator Jackson Brodie, who will be played by Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The Patriot), is the complex and compulsive detective surrounded by death, intrigue and misfortune. While his own life is haunted by a family tragedy, he attempts to unravel disparate case histories. The series has been filmed and set in modern Edinburgh.

Stolen
Another one from the Beeb, this single film thriller stars Damian Lewis and is written by Stephen Butchard, who was responsible for last year’s excellent Five Daughters. Lewis plays Detective Inspector Anthony Carter in a story about human trafficking in Britain today, where children are brought here for a better life but end up working illegally outside the system.

Vera
ITV has turned to the novels of Ann Cleeves and her fat detective inspector Vera Stanhope, of whom one character thinks it ‘would take a crane to shift to her’. How Brenda Blethyn has been inflated to fill this role will be interesting to see. Four stories, set in contemporary Northumberland and including Hidden Depths and Telling Tales, have been filmed. Vera is obsessive about her work and lonely, but she doesn’t show it, facing her colleagues with caustic wit and guile. Her trusted and long-suffering colleague is Joe Ashworth, her right hand man and surrogate son.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

An enthralling true story based on the non-fiction best-seller by Kate Summerscale about an infamous murder in a Victorian country house. The two-hour drama from ITV stars Paddy Considine (Red Riding Trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum) in the lead role of Inspector Jonathan Whicher, and has been adapted by Neil McKay (See No Evil: The Moors Murders). Also starring Peter Capaldi (In the Loop, Torchwood, The Thick of It) and Geraldine Somerville (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Set in 1860, this  story of murder, psychological suspense and courtroom drama begins when three-year-old Saville Kent is found brutally murdered and hidden down a servants’ privy in the grounds of the elegant Road Hill House on the edge of a village on the Wiltshire/Somerset border. Whicher’s career was ruined by this case, but he became the inspiration for the first detective novel, Wilkie Collins’ Moonstone. This really is such a gripping story that something will have to be seriously wrong with the production for it not to be a compelling couple of hours.

Martina Cole’s The Runaway
Set in London’s Soho and New York during the 1960s and 70s, this is about a girl, treated so badly in
care that she runs away, to be befriended by a transvestite. She grows up in the heart of London’s underworld, while her sweetheart is pulled into a life of crime and has to flee to New York. Eventually the pair are drawn together again. Starring Alan Cumming, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Jack O’Connell and Joanna Vanderham. Coming to Sky 1 in March.

Hit and Miss
This one looks interesting. New channel Sky Atlantic has commissioned an original drama to go with all the HBO gems it has. Hit and Miss is from Paul Abbott’s development company (Abbott, of course, wrote State of Play, Shameless, Touching Evil and others) and is his first foray outside of terrestrial TV. Chloe is a contract killer with a secret – she’s a pre-op transsexual. Her life is complicated when she gets a letter from her ex, Wendy, revealing that she is dying from cancer and that Chloe has a 10-year-old son. Written by Sean Conway, it’s described as high-concept.

Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake
Atmospheric new multi-part drama series announced for BBC Two from Oscar-winning writer/director Jane Campion (The Piano, Sweetie, Portrait of a Lady, In the Cut, Bright Star). Top of the Lake is set in remote, mountainous New Zealand and is a haunting story about our search for happiness in a paradise where honest work is hard to find. A 12-year-old girl stands chest deep in a frozen lake. She is five months pregnant, and she won’t say who the father is, insisting it was ‘no one’. Then she disappears. Robin Griffin, the investigating detective, will find this is the case that tests her to her limits. In the search for the girl she will first have to find herself. Directed by Jane Campion, and written by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee. It is a multi-part serial for BBC Two and will film in 2011.

Appropriate Adult
ITV has commissioned this factual drama, focusing on the untold story of how Fred and Rosemary West were brought to justice. It will look at the period between Fred West’s arrest and his suicide on New Year’s Day 1995, and how he confided in Janet Leach who took the role of the ‘appropriate adult’ during his police interviews. ‘Appropriate adults’ are appointed to sit in on police interviews with children or vulnerable adults to safeguard their interests. Dominic West (The Wire, 300) will play Fred West, and Emily Watson (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Gosford Park) takes the role of Janet Leach. The award-winning production team responsible for See No Evil: The Moors Murders, This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence and Wall of Silence, will produce the drama written by Neil McKay.

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