Turks and Caicos and Salting the Battlefield made up the second and third parts of David Hare’s trilogy about an ex-MI5 agent respectively.
In Turks and Caicos, Bill Nighy reprised his role of Johnny Worricker in the follow-up to 2011 thriller Page Eight. Alongside Nighy, Winona Ryder plays Melanie Fall, a businesswoman with a secret, Christopher Walken is a CIA agent, while Helena Bonham Carter plays an old girlfriend of Worricker’s. Dylan Baker, Rupert Graves, Ralph Fiennes and Ewen Bremner appear alongside them in this star studded cast.
Discredited and disgraced by the Prime Minister, Billy Nighy’s Jonny is trapped on a heavenly island. He’s gallant, uprightly British and the moral compass on trust. Christpher Walken is both his twin and his antithesis. Disillusioned by the financial inequality in the world and the false promises of ending torture in America, his ‘lizard charm’, both unnerve and distract from the secrets he too has to hide. However, once Jonny senses there is more to the businessmen visiting the island than meets the eye, his digging unearths dark personal secrets, and the human cost of business profit is brought to the stark forefront.
Revealing all the underhand dealings of both the British and the Americans, the two strongholds of modernity, it’s a British political thriller at its best. It might not be filled with guns, explosions or car chases, but it has something much more prolific – British middle class morality and propriety. The main questions posed by the sequel are, “Is everyone in British intelligence as charming as Bill Nighy?” and why are we neither, brought up by, or married to Bill Nighy or Christopher Walken?
The final of David Hare’s trilogy Salting the Battlefield, sees him on the run with his lover, and fellow ex-MI5 agent Margot (Helena Bonham Carter). Salting the Battlefield is supposedly the climax of the trilogy, but unfortunately it does not have the same drive as Turks and Caicos. The screen presence of Winona Ryder and Christopher Walken was certainly missed. However, it largely held its own due to Ralph Fiennes’s performance as the calculating British Prime Minister, who reminded us just why he is one of the most watchable actors of our time. Although charming and very British as always, Nighy struggled to portray the deep internal conflicts of an absent father, suspicious lover and weathered spy. The lack of interesting female characters is also apparent, with Worricker’s daughter seemingly being used as a hackneyed prop.
It deals with the strained relationship of the two ex-MI5 agents, balancing their personal life and being on the run, with the backdrop of personal politics among the government officials. However, scenes of suspense border on the ridiculous; maybe it’s Nighy’s charm not fitting with the atmosphere of imminent danger or maybe it’s the constant use of conspicuous shades. The role of the intelligence service is one not questioned nearly enough, and this is a point that Hare wants to drive home. Yes, the main story is about politicians accountability and underhand involvement with camps designed for the war on terror, but, the people running the show are the intelligence. As the German police are ready to quip in response to why they lack CCTV, “it’s not like England, we respect human rights”.
It might not be glossy and it may lack the Hollywood wow-factor, but by stripping away all that, Hare manages to provide something much more honest and thought-provoking. The moral is; everyone can be a winner as long as the electorate remains ignorant.
The full Worricker box set is available on DVD from April 7 or catch Salting the Battlefield on iPlayer now
Photos: Property of bbc.co.uk and telegraph.co.uk