Masterpiece Contemporary | Page Eight
Watch Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 10:30pm on WMHT TV.
Bill Nighy (Love Actually) and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) head an all-star cast in a gripping modern drama written and directed by Sir David Hare (Oscar-nominated adapter of The Reader and The Hours). Masterpiece Contemporary: Page Eight touches on torture, corruption, betrayal, and the passing of the old guard of British spies.
Also starring are Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener), Michael Gambon (Harry Potter), Judy Davis (My Brilliant Career), and Felicity Jones (Northanger Abbey).
Honored as the closing night selection of this year’s Toronto Film Festival, Page Eight riveted critics when it was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival. “Page Eight is a lean political thriller that is as enthralling as it is intelligent,” said The Evening Standard (London). “A film of maturity and intelligence … with a classy, stately feel to its photography, and nicely judged performances from the leads,” wrote The Guardian (London). “Intelligent stuff,” added The Herald (Glasgow), “with many a class act on show.”
Nighy plays crusty but canny intelligence analyst Johnny Worricker, who works for MI5, the British internal security and counter-espionage service. On arriving home one evening, he chances across his beautiful next-door neighbor, Nancy Pierpan (Weisz). The two haven’t met, and she asks him into her flat to chase off a persistent young suitor named Ralph (Tom Hughes), which Johnny gallantly does. Nancy is friendly. Johnny is suspicious. They hit it off.
So begins a spellbinding tale that is part LeCarré, part Hitchcock. Johnny’s boss, mentor, and best friend is Benedict “Ben” Baron (Gambon). Years earlier, Ben was Johnny’s tutor at Cambridge University, and he later married Johnny’s first wife Emma (Alice Krige). Johnny and Emma have a grown-up daughter, Julianne ( Jones), who is an avant-garde artist fed up with a dad who is always sifting for information.
But Johnny is a superb sifter and he soon establishes that there is more to Nancy and Ralph than either lets on. However, this pales next to the mystery that turns up at MI5—at the bottom of page eight of a top secret document being circulated by Ben. Only a single sentence, the passage hints at a conspiracy of silence, implicating high government officials in Washington and London. It’s explosive stuff that goes right to the door of the British prime minister (Fiennes).
Who is the source of this bombshell? Why is Ben suddenly airing it? And what will the information mean for Johnny’s fading career in the new intelligence regime of the 21st century, where spies of the old school are as relevant as poison-tipped umbrellas? Johnny is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery in the only way he knows how…
Bold and thought-provoking, Page Eight depicts a looking-glass world where intelligence no longer means information, where allies are enemies and governments have dark reasons for putting their own citizens at risk. As the plot of Page Eight unfolds, it makes The Spy Who Came in from the Cold seem like a warm, soothing bath.