The Spooks Movie – YES, THEY’RE MAKING A SPOOKS MOVIE! – is freshly underway on MI5’s home turf in London with running, shooting and people shouting “the package is down, the package is down!” at each other. Calling the shots on this bigger budget espionage-athon is director Bharat Nalluri. The series veteran has the tricky task of extending the show’s hour-long format into a feature-length thriller without jettisoning the character beats that made it so popular or palely imitating the James Bonds and Jason Bournes of this world. How will he do it? Well, as he explained, he’s got some aces up his sleeve. Here’s ten of them.
1 THE CANVAS IS BIGGER
The plot sees MI5's Head of Counter-Terrorism Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) in deep when big bad Adem Qasim escapes and immediately sets about planning more atrocities. As Spooks fans will know, the penalty for that kind of blunder can be severe, especially with bureaucrats like Joint Intelligence Committee chief Oliver Mace (the returning Tim McInnerny) around. Which he is. "There's a reality to it, so it's got to land in a world that is real," director Bharat Nalluri explains of the set-up. "And the canvas is huge now." - - - - - -
2 IT'S THE PEARCE ULTIMATUM
There were moments in Spooks when the only people who didn't want to kill Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) seemed to be his mum and his Scotch supplier – and, for all we knew, his mum was having second thoughts. The IRA, Hamas, the KGB, the FSB, most of the Home Office... you name it, he's annoyed it. As Nalluri explains, the movie kicks off in exactly the same vein. Harry disappears off the grid in a manner even Sherlock Holmes would find impressively melodramatic. Suffice to say it involves swapping Thames House for the actual Thames in a faux-suicide that should throw his many enemies off the scent. As Harry goes all ghost protocol, a new face emerges to get to save an imperilled agency. It belongs to one 'Will Crombie', an old operative of Pearce's played by Kit 'John Schnnnooo' Harington. Can he save his erstwhile boss? We have no idea. They don't put that stuff on the press release. - - - - - -
3 THE TITLE IS SIGNIFICANT
As with the TV show, moral relativism is again at play. "'The greater good' has always been the dilemma for Spooks," explains Nalluri. "I think that's what makes [Spooks] kind of unique as a show, and as a movie as well. It's very grey morally, and those choices are very difficult, you know? Do you kill one person to save a thousand? Does that make you a better person? A worse person? The choices aren't easy." Screenwriters Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent, both also veterans of the BBC show, have gone back to their best source of storylines: the front pages. "When we closed up the show in 2011, we thought: 'Okay, we've mined everything," but then it just all kickstarted again with Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, home-grown Jihadists, Syria, people tapping into all our emails." Not forgetting one of Spooks' most reliable frenemies, the Americans. "It's a really fine time for a movie."
Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) and the most recent Spooks team - - - - - -
4 THERE WILL BE TWISTS
Spooks' post-9/11 punch took many by surprise when it launched in 2002. Big characters died in a range of surprising and, in the case of Lisa Faulkner's infamous chippie murder, high-calorie ways as the new show bared its teeth. Nalluri says the movie will do likewise. "People found [Spooks] really unsparing because they were used to television and film where the hero would save the day," he explains. "We didn't necessarily give you the easy way out, and that's what we'll aim for [with the movie]. In that sense, we'll basically continue the story where we left off in the show. It's hard and certainly unsparing, and no-one is certainly safe throughout the film. And they'll be lots of twists." But will the director have to fit those "more visceral" moments into a 12A rating? "I suspect so, yes." - - - - - -
5 IT'LL PLEASE OLD (AND NEW) SPOOKS FANS
Hardcore Spookies will be reassured to know that a series veteran, Bharat Nalluri, is back behind the camera for the feature-length adaptation. Nalluri piloted episode one, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill', onto the small screen way back in May 2002 and shot a further five episodes, including the CV bookmarking season ten finale. "Fans are not going to be disappointed," he promises of the movie. "Basically, if you've been a Spooks fan for the last ten years, we have wrapped our arms around you. We've brought in all the best heads that worked on Spooks, and we'll bring up things that only Spooks fans will know about, and deliver them in such a way that if you've never seen the show before, you'd understand. You're in good hands."
Lucas North (Richard Armitage) in action in season eight - - - - - -
6 THERE'LL BE PLENTY OF ACTION
Spooks might not have rivalled 24 for crazed action sequences – there was no episode when Harry Pearce's daughter has a terrifying face-off with a hedgehog – but it had its share of thrills. Key characters were routinely offed in spectacular fashion (think Adam and that car bomb, or Danny's brutal execution) and there was often enough vehicular mayhem to seriously raise blood pressures at the AA. The bigger format allows for a supersizing of the latter. "We've got motorbikes, attacks on convoys and huge sniper sequences in the middle of London," enthuses Nalluri of the ten-week shoot. "It's set piece after set piece. The toy box is out for this one." - - - - - -
7 LONDON'S CALLING (MOSCOW AND BERLIN, TOO)
"We're all over London", reveals Nalluri of the shoot's location map, "revisiting a few old Spooks haunts". That East London chippie, then? Perhaps not, but there will be many familiar sights for long-time viewers. "It's a London I'm hoping that no-one has seen. It's the story of the old world of Harry Pearce and the new world of this young, new guy in Will Holloway, and I want to show those sides of London." Expect plenty of grainy exteriors of Thames House, the gleaming tech of The Grid, and the clubby world of government wonks like the returning Oliver Mace, as well as some exotic new locations. "We're following Harry's past to Berlin," says the director. "There's some great locations [there], including Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz." But it's in Moscow that the story picks up, Mission: Impossible 4-style, with a franchise newbie. "That's where we meet Will at the beginning of the story. He's probably outside of the auspices of MI5 – he's decided to go freelance." - - - - - -
8 IT'S NOT TRYING TO BE BOND
With Aaron Cross queuing for popcorn, James Bond perusing the pick 'n' mix for vintage wine gums and Jack Ryan probably heading for the car park, Spooks will arrive in a multiplex crowded with spy properties. But Nalluri is in no doubt that there's a gap in the market for an intelligent espionager grounded in reality. "I love Bond, but we're in a different world to Bond," he stresses. "It's interesting that the last Bond looked at contemporary threats in Britain, and looked within MI6. I think that's what Spooks does at its best." The difference, of course, is a focus on internal security that Nalluri believes will offer "a different kind of texture" to his movie – and not because it'll have men in suits talking about 'Home Office directives' and 'community-sensitive policy parameters'. "Spooks was always an absolute rollercoaster," he recalls. "People remember it as incredibly violent and ferocious but I think it's because they cared a lot about the characters."
Keeley Hawes and Matthew Macfadyen, who played Zoe Reynolds and Tom Quinn (respectively) in the early seasons of Spooks. Macfadyen returned for the last series (without the beard). - - - - - -
9 ZOE WON'T BE COMING BACK...
Sadly for old-school Spookies, Keeley Hawes' decommissioned agent, Zoe Reynolds, will not be de-decommissioned for Spooks: The Greater Good, presumably because of the amount of paperwork involved and the fact that Hawes is now happily ensconced in BBC2 crime drama Line Of Duty. "Sadly not Zoe, no," confirms Nalluri when Empire asks if she'll return from her Chilean exile to rejoin the good fight. Maybe she met that South American guy after all. - - - - - -
10 ...BUT TOM MIGHT BE
Hearthrob super-spook Tom Quinn, a man with a ruinous love life and, come to think of it, career, is still a firm favourite in these parts. Matthew Macfadyen's character, the possible result of accidental gene splice of Ethan Hunt and Droopy Dog, returned at the end of season ten as a private sector operative harbouring some long-dormant loyalties to his former MI5 colleagues. Surely he'll back again for the movie? "Look, we brought Tom back in the very last episode of the last series," Nalluri straight-bats. "Make of that what you will!" Yes, then.