Based on the hit British TV series, MI-5 stars Kit Harington (HBO's "Game of Thrones") alongside "MI-5" veteran Peter Firth, Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game), Jennifer Ehle (Fifty Shades of Grey) and Laura Pulver (Edge of Tomorrow) in the high-stakes action adventure.
The Internet Movie Database informs me that the original title for 'MI-5' was 'Spooks: The Greater Good.' While that sounds like the subtitle for a Scooby Doo adventure, it probably would've been a more interesting title than the blandness of 'MI-5.' Yet, the title's mundanity accurately reflects this thriller.
Actually the film has a storied past, building on the British TV show 'Spooks,' a.k.a 'MI-5' created by David Wolstencroft. The TV version has been chugging along for 10 seasons now. Having not seen the TV show it's quite possible that the movie holds more impact for the show's fans. It's fair, however, to judge it as a standalone movie because it was released as such.
No doubt trying desperately to cash in on the popularity of Kit Harington, of 'Game of Thrones' fame, the movie feels rushed; not fully realized. 'MI-5' cobbles together an espionage plot that leaves much to be desired. A forgettable film featuring high intrigue in the top levels of the British government. It's a path many other movies have tread and 'MI-5' has immense trouble distancing itself from the pack.
Harington is Will Holloway, a former MI-5 agent brought in to help solve a troubling case. When the movie begins, MI-5 director Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is disgraced after he allows a wanted terrorist to escape during a prisoner transfer. The escape plot is well orchestrated and carried out in broad daylight on a London street. Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel) absconds and Pearce is left with an intelligence organization left in shambles.
There are rumblings that the CIA wants to take over MI-5. The rumor is that this latest bungle is the in the Americans need to seize control of Britain's top intelligence force. It all sounds quite farfetched. The core thrust of the story doesn't make much sense, but the movie plows forward hoping that we'll become interested at some point.
The screenplay tends to tread the talky espionage route. While there is some quick-paced action, the bulk of the movie is given over to hypothesizing and philosophizing about Britain's role in worldwide intelligence and loyalty to the crown.
One shouldn't expect a movie like 'MI-5' to live up to the lofty ideals of, say, 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.' That's just not fair. However, the movie fails to grasp even the rudimentary aspects that make for a good espionage thriller. It plays more like a forgettable episode of 'Homeland' than a real spy movie.
Harington is so-so as the rebel agent called in to right the ship, so to speak. He's dashing enough to be a British agent I suppose. His brand of charisma is best left in Westeros though. He has trouble carrying a movie like this. With this sort of been-there-done-that plot, the next place to look for engagement is the star and Harington just doesn't deliver enough on that front.
It's quite possible that as an ongoing TV series this movie holds much more weight than it does as a standalone movie. It's entirely probable that the admiration fans of the show may have for these characters could provide for an enriching experience. Being a continuation of a TV series certainly explains its "TV feel."
By itself 'MI-5' lacks excitement, intrigue, or interesting scenarios. Its characters are flat and its plot is haphazardly explained while its characters flail about trying to understand it themselves. This appears to be something made entirely for the fans.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This a barebones, single-disc release. It's a 50GB disc, packed in a standard keepcase, and given a slipcover.
For the most part 'MI-5's 1080p transfer is detailed, vibrant, and sharp. It's one of those transfers where there strengths definitely outweigh the weaknesses. Nevertheless, the weaknesses are noticeable when they crop up.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of the transfer is the intermitted banding that's visible in skies and during some fade transitions. It's not a huge problem, rather minor actually. Though it's one of those things you'll see and it'll briefly take you out of the presentation because you know it shouldn't be there.
Clarity is great though. There are some amazingly clear aerial shots of downtown London. Close-ups feature significant detail. It has that digital TV-look to it. It doesn't feel as filmic as many other films. Even with that the depth is impressive. Facial detail and clarity shine. Everything from facial hair to intricate textures are visible. Perhaps dark areas aren't as deep as they could be. There's a scene where Harry finds himself staking out a terrorist faction, in the dark, out in the countryside, and the visuals are rather flat. There's not a whole lot of depth provided when the lights go down. Not a lot of noise in the blackness, just flatness where there should be at least some complexity to perceive. Overall, it's a decently strong transfer. There's nothing about it that's overwhelmingly amazing though.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as workmanlike. It's rather light on the frills given its spy movie roots. It has strong clear sound that could've been more enveloping.
The front channels offer up some good directionality with voices. Sometimes voices come across a little too soft at times. Rear channels aren't as engaged as one might think they should be. The opening escape sequence is rather exciting, producing a cacophony of sound in the rear channels, but as the movie moves toward a more dialogue-centric approach the rear channels don't get as much activity as one might suspect form a movie like this.
LFE is engaging during the more intense scenes. There's a large explosion that produces a satisfying low-end boom that shook my theater room. Likewise the thumping soundtrack provides some great opportunities for rolling bass. Again, there are pros and cons with the pros eventually outshining the cons.
The Making of 'MI-5' (HD, 11 min.) – A standard promotional look at the film's genesis from the TV series and so forth.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 min.) – A few deleted scenes are included. None of them noteworthy in any fashion.
I confess I haven't watched an episode of 'MI-5,' so I may not be the audience for this film. Yet the fact remains that if it's released as a standalone film it should be able to stand on its own. Considering that 'MI-5' fails. It simply isn't engaging or interesting in any way that would encourage people to seek it out. It's utterly bland as far as spy movies go. The audio and video have a few minor issues, but on the whole they're decent. I would hazard a guess that this film is for fans of the show only.