Page Eight (2011)

Pretty good, pretty good.

Also, very dry and pompous.

I thought it a little strange they went for a documentary with traces of fiction.  Go read Spies, Lies and the War on Terror by Paul Todd, Patrick Fitzgerald, and Jonathan Bloch.

I like Bill Nighy well enough but his character is rather unlikeable in this made for tv movie. He was dry, he was awkward, was a decent-ish man trying to live up to the legacy of his dead friend instead of his own moral obligations, etc.  What did he really accomplish besides prevent organizational rearrangement and generate a leaked foreign policy disaster?  These days people like that get captured by Russians and are considered traitors.  Even Tankard is surprised that he actually cares.  Yes, he has the admirable desire to only produce intelligence based on fact but if public revelations about CIA-Executive Branch interactions are any indication, pressure from those on high will resonate with career officials trying to preserve their pension.  In that environment, an idealist wouldn’t survive without a very powerful mentor, oh wait…  He’s not much of a hero and how can you say he’s a man with a conscience when he ditches the very nationally relevant file in favor of personal expedience in preserving intelligence status quo and helping his activist neighbor?  How is he any different than the PM?  It’s literally the same choice Blair made but scaled down.  The UK public is still kept in the dark by people who think they know what’s best, treating the people they serve like children.  This movie should be offensive on many levels to any British commoner.

This may sound gross but he frantically spends more time in the movie on his relationship with his daughter than ex-wives, co-workers, and even his adulterous lover; therefore, what are we to think of his infatuation with Pierpan?  She’s so very much younger with the dark hair and messy personal life.  It wasn’t very clear to me if they kiss (gross) the night before a tryst (grosser) or right before dawn (still gross).  Would he have gone public with the much worse file if she hadn’t been in the picture?  Honestly, with the strained dialogue and implication-heavy plotting, this one could have believably gone any number of ways not excluding the revelation that he was a vampire.  Nighy really needs some Vitamin D, I’m just saying…

The quality of the movie is pretty good however and it’s certainly an important story to tell.  I suppose everyone lost faith in “the Americans” long ago but maybe it’s still surprising for Brits to find out Tony Blair and crew were just as bad as Bush and crew?

I wouldn’t say this is on the best spy movies of all time list but it was really pretty fascinating and decently done.


p.s. Ralph Fiennes does a great PM, much better than Steed.