MI-5 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (6th March 2016).
The Film

When the MI-5 transit of American Muslim terrorist Adem Qasim (Scorpion's Elyes Gabel) into CIA custody is ambushed in the middle of London traffic, MI-5 Intelligence Director Sir Harry Pearce (Lifeforce's Peter Firth) surrenders the prisoner rather than risk civilian lives. With the CIA publically expressing a lack of faith in MI-5's effectiveness and demanding greater control of joint operations after the loss of a Tier One CIA target, Pearce takes the fall as MI-5 Director General Oliver Mace (Notting Hill's Tim McInnerny ), Deputy Director Geraldine Maltby (Zero Dark Thirty's Jennifer Ehle), Head of Counter-Intelligence Emerson (Philomena's Elliot Levey), and Joint Intelligence Committee Chairman Francis Warrender (Homeland's David Harewood) struggle to maintain control of the manhunt for Qasim before he can wage an attack on London. Suspecting that someone in his own agency set up Qasim's escape, soon-to-be-decommissioned Pearce takes himself off the radar with an apparent suicidal leap into the Thames. Will Holloway (Game of Thrones's Kit Harington), a former agent decommissioned by Pearce just a year into service after an operation went south, is forcibly escorted back from his free-lancing in Moscow to London when it is discovered that Pearce's last call was to his ex-service emergency voicemail. Holloway easily determines that the CCTV images of Pearce's apparent suicide have been doctored and surmises that the heads of MI-5 have summoned him for another reason: to find Pearce who they believe has either gone after Qasim himself or has been turned by the terrorist. Pearce has indeed found Qasim on the Kent Coast bringing in weapons from North Africa and allows himself to be captured in order to propose an exchange: Qasim's pregnant wife Asma traded by MI-5 to the Russians for an exposed CIA operative in exchange for the identity of the person within Pearce's ranks who arranged his escape. Qasim accepts the deal but shows that he means business by executing Pearce's undercover operative Erin Watts (Edge of Tomorrow's Lara Pulver). With the official handling of operative Hannah Santo (Breaking and Entering's Eleanor Matsuura) and more covert help from agent June Keaton (The Imitation Game's Tuppence Middleton) who was on the transport detail and lost her CIA boyfriend (Guardians of the Galaxy's Ronan Summers) in the shootout Holloway tracks down Pearce who seems to have lost the plot and is willing to go to extremes that could compromise Western intelligence in order to discover the traitor. Back in London, Mace and Maltby have come to suspect that Warrender constantly courting the American agencies may have an interest in weakening the agency until he becomes one of six casualties in a suicide bombing at a NATO gala, the first move in what Qasim promises to be an attack that goes beyond religious divisions to the heart of British political power.

MI-5 originally titled Spooks: The Greater Good is a motion picture spin-off of the BBC series Spooks (also retitled MI-5 for its stateside airings on PBS stations) which ended its ten year run in 2011. The script by series writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent helmed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) who directed a handful of episodes, including the finale explores what various characters will do for what they believe is "the greater good" (as the original title is subtitled), casting the CIA and MI-5 (and by extension the British government) in as unflattering a light as the "articulate, charismatic, persuasive" Qasim who to the public states "you are not our enemy. Our enemies are the politicians who send your sons and your daughters to die in illegal wars. The spies who spy on you, like you are the criminals" and to his brother-in-arms (Spectre's Amra Mallassi) "If we kill a hundred of [their women and children], we won't have repaid one thousandth of the debt." Although the film does kill off one or two established series characters, it is hardly a daring move with more than a couple prominently-featured characters newly created to be killed off without effecting a possible return of the show (or at least to not alienate the fans however they took the cancelling of it) with order a little too tidily restored. Harrington is energetic but bland, and it is pretty obvious that he was shoehorned into the plot because the producers (presumably Saban) felt that wider audiences would not be interested in following Firth for two hours, so instead his veteran spy leads an increasingly frustrated Holloway around by the nose, constantly betraying him when convenient and knowing that he can rely on the younger operative to do the right thing. MI-5 remains a stimulating and rousing action film independent of the series, but those unfamiliar with the series may be distracted by the feeling that the film takes a degree of familiarity with the series regulars for granted while fans may be rankled by the twists involving some of the series characters and the hollow name-checking of others.
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Video

LionsGate's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen presentation is without fault with strong close-ups and detailed long-shots and aerial imagery that greatly enhances the film's sense of "scope" over the television series.
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Audio

The sole audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that makes its immersive nature known from the start with rainfall in the surrounds and swooping helicopter wings. Explosions and gunfire are suitably jolting throughout while the dialogue also remains clear. Subtitle options are the usual (for LionsGate) English, English SDH, and Spanish (a menu option allows the viewer to turn off the menu sounds but this includes the music in addition to the annoying cursor moves and selection noises).
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Extras

In the making-of (11:16) segment, the director and series creators discuss the opportunity to turn some heroes into villains and villains into heroes as the film questions how far each of its characters to go for what they believe is "the greater good." While the featurette is perhaps suitable for British viewers, American viewers could have done with some more contextual background on the series (which I believe has aired on PBS in some American cities). The three deleted scenes (5:33) all focus on the subplot about Holloway's father and were wisely deleted as the first two dilute some of the tension of the climax while the last (which should have appeared earlier in the film) references the "Berlin file" introduced in the first deleted scene. The disc also includes previews/start-up trailers for four other films but not for the feature itself.
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Overall

The feature MI-5 is a stimulating and rousing action film independent of the series, but those unfamiliar with the series may be distracted by the feeling that the film takes a degree of familiarity with the series regulars for granted while fans may be rankled by the twists involving some of the series characters and the hollow name-checking of others.
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The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: C+ Overall: B+

 


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