Magazine article Variety

London Spy

Magazine article Variety

London Spy

Article excerpt

TV REVIEW

London Spy

SERIES: BBC America, Thurs. Jan. 21,10 p.m.

WRITER: Tom Rob Smith

STARRING: Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling

U.K. writers regularly churn out well-wrought drama series with top-notch casts, and "London Spy" has all the usual things going for it - smart writing, evocative use of locations, an atmosphere of yearning, erudite suspense. And yet there is something singular about this terrific program, a spare, off-kilter intensity that sets it apart from its peers.

The series is lean, enigmatic and not that interested in linear storytelling; it's a sensitive exploration of emotional truth and of the complexities behind elaborate performances of identity. It's elliptical and indirect at times, but its narrative drive is strengthened by a percolating anger at injustice, fear-mongering and prejudice. This haunting drama becomes more captivating over its five installments, thanks in large part to sensational performances from Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling.

"London Spy" could have gone terribly wrong, given the luridness of its real-life source material: In 2010, a dead man was found locked inside a gym bag in an apartment connected to the U.K.'s security services, and the British press had a field day speculating about the mix of spycraft and sexual practices that may have led to the man's death. The good news is, creator Tom Rob Smith has not come up with an exploitative riff on a tabloid tale. He's much more interested in what it costs people to be true to themselves, and how easy it is for the powerful to demonize and shame people for what transpires in their personal lives, even in this supposedly more enlightened age.

The fulcrum of the story is Whishaw's Danny, who, after a late night of partying, encounters Alex (Edward Holcroft), who couldn't be more different from the dissolute Danny. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.