Spooks: The Greater Good full movie review - "MI-5" is no "Mission: Impossible 5", but it holds its own in 2015's crop of spy and espionage movies.
When I was buying my ticket to "MI-5" (R, 1:44), the cashier asked me if I knew that this movie was not "Mission: Impossible 5".
I said that I did, and we briefly spoke about the confusion caused by the title of the movie that I was about to see. As if on cue, as I walked away, I heard the woman who had just come to the box office request a ticket for "Mission: Impossible 5". She decided to choose another movie.
Her confusion is understandable. Just a few months before the British spy thriller "MI-5" hit American theaters, "Mission: Impossible ? Rogue Nation" (sometimes referred to as "M:I-5") was playing widely in the U.S. Lest anyone think that "MI-5" is trying to ride the coat tails of "M:I-5", I should mention that the former is a cinematic continuation of the 2002-2011 British TV series of the same name. And, ironically enough, the jump that "MI-5" made to the big screen mirrors that of "Mission: Impossible" in which the first of the movies has the hero of the TV series going rogue. If all that is too confusing, maybe this will help: The British series is called "MI-5" in the U.S., but was titled "Spooks" in the U.K. (after the common nickname for spies around the world) and the film version is known overseas as "Spooks: The Greater Good". I hope that clears up any confusion, and I'll just talk about the British film from here on in.
"Spooks: The Greater Good" / "MI-5" takes its name from the legendary British Secret Service which is responsible for counter-terrorism and counter-espionage as it works to protect British governmental and economic interests. When Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel), the CIA's most wanted terrorist, escapes British custody while being transported to American agents, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), head of MI-5's counter-terrorism department (Section D), is blamed. With "MI-5" facing an existential crisis and trying to save face after Qasim's escape, the organization pressures Pearce to resign. Instead, he disappears.
Former MI-5 agent, Will Holloway (Kit Harrington), who was only with the agency for a year, is brought in to help find Pearce. Holloway's father used to work with Pearce. MI-5 agents Geraldine Maltby (Jennifer Ehle) and Mace (Tim McInnerny) ? with their boss, Francis Warrender (David Harewood) backing them up ? tell Halloway that Pearce has more information about Halloway's father's death in the field than the young man had previously known. Halloway is reluctant because Pearce was the one responsible for Halloway's dismissal from MI-5 years before, but he really wants to get the whole story behind his father's death, so he sets out to find Pearce.
Holloway uses some of his MI-5 skills to catch up to Pearce in Berlin, but gets much more than he bargained for. Before Pearce tells Holloway anything else about his father, Pearce enlists Holloway to help him in his self-assigned one-man mission to find a traitor within MI-5. Holloway doesn't like or trust Pearce, especially when he finds out Pearce has been in contact with Qasim, but his encounters with another agent (Tuppence Middleton) lead Holloway to believe that Pearce is right about the traitor within their organization. The rest of the film involves a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in which Pearce works Qasim to discover the traitor's identity and Holloway works desperately to prevent a terrorist attack on London.
"MI-5" / "Spooks: The Greater Good" effectively mixes influences from the "Mission: Impossible" movies and TV shows like "Homeland" and "24", but isn't quite as good. Some of the film's plot points feel contrived, but the main story is interesting and keeps the audience guessing. The script contains great lines ("You can do good or you can do well. Sooner or later they make you choose.") as it delves into the complicated world of counter-terrorism in the 21st century and explores the difficult decisions we must make to survive in that world. Gabel isn't quite menacing enough as the villain, but Firth brings forward his character from the TV show wonderfully, while Harrington is great in this modern "Game of Thrones". It's too bad that woman chose not to see "MI-5". She missed a very entertaining movie. "B+"