When the bar is set as high as writer/director David Hare and thespian extraordinaire Bill Nighy (yes, I am biased) set it in Page Eight, Part I of The Worricker Trilogy, it takes more than a couple of running starts to stick the landing.
I continue to appreciate Hare’s love of the subtle, but was not taken with Turks & Caicos and was hoping like heck that all would be resolved in a dramatically satisfying manner in the third round.
(More about Page Eight)
While Salting the Battlefield is a tick up, the story thread with Johnny Worricker’s daughter felt contrived, like an add-on without a reason to be. Conflict and tension, of course, has to ebb and flow throughout a piece such as this or what’s the point. Add to that the emotional drama of family connectedness and the drama thickens. But should it not flow out of the world created for these people in a way that makes sense? Worricker and Margot Tyrrell’s (Helena Bonham Carter) mad dash to his daughter’s flat seemed sloppily constructed and very much out of character for these first-rate spies.
A plus for Salting The Battlefield was the return to home ground. It felt right to have our hero go back to the place that almost ate him up and was the reason for his disenfranchisement in the first place. It was also fitting for him to have a final battle with the Alec Beasley, craftily played by Ralph Fiennes.
And yet, I am disappointed. Is it because I wanted a traditional ‘ah ha’ ending? Is it because Worricker and Tyrell, who never felt really settled in their reuniting gave it up so easily? Or is it because it was hard to buy them as soul mates at all?
Or finally, is it because the dénouement was a return to a normalcy Worricker had rejected when he defied the PM and tossed the document containing the incendiary page eight?
I loved Page Eight and wanted to love Parts II and Parts III. Instead, I only like them a little. No matter though: Nighy is always a joy to watch; as are the rest of this tremendous cast: Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Walken, Rupert Graves and Judy Davis reappears.
This is what Hare said about putting the players together:
“We have assembled a most extraordinary cast for these two films. I think there may be two reasons – first and foremost, because so many actors want to appear alongside Bill Nighy, but secondly, because people responded so strongly to the feeling of Page Eight – all the fun of spy fiction, I hope, but, for once, bang up to date and based in the real intelligence dilemmas of the last 10 years.”
Watch David Hare and Bill Nighy discuss the whole of Johnny Worricker’s journey and where we find him at the end. It might portend a follow-up to the follow-ups.
Salting the Battlefield is Part three of the Trilogy, following Page Eight, Part I and Turks & Caicos, Part II.
The Worricker Trilogy is streaming for a time on PBS.org or buy to own DVD/Blu-ray.
(A TV Review)