BBC Video // 2010 // 400 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 6th, 2011
Friendship at risk.
The BBC's flagship spy show chugs along with its ninth series and -- surprise! -- you still can't trust anyone.
Our MI-5 team is recoiling from a team member's death and big dog Harry Pearce (Peter Firth, The Hunt for Red October) is seriously contemplating retirement. There's no room for lollygagging though, as dicey covert ops demand the squad's attention: from tracking an al-Qaeda terrorist in Tangiers and protecting an Israeli official from assassination, to battling hackers who have threatened national security.
Meanwhile, ace agent Lucas North (Richard Armitage, Frozen) is confronted with a mysterious man from his past who threatens to reveal a devastating secret that could torpedo his career...or worse.
I ate the first series up, greatly enjoying the adventures of Matthew Macfayden and company, but lost touch soon afterwards. Returning to the MI-5 universe shows a plethora of different faces, but the same slick style and high-end production values.
It was easy to plug back into the series, even though I had missed big happenings. No matter. The engine picked up steam right out of the gate with a very cool al-Qaeda plot to kick the series off (miles better than the goofy "global anti-abortion terrorist" that started the introductory batch of episodes). From there, the stories retain effective momentum, Lucas's enigmatic past providing the background arc that pushes the series forward.
The easy comparison for MI-5 is 24, which works to a decent degree. The crises are always time-sensitive, with all members of the team scrambling like crazy to crack codes, hack networks, finagle political favors, or put boots on the ground chasing a dude through Heathrow. Lucas is suitable alpha-male badass, not unlike one Mr. Jack Bauer, and -- as evidenced in the first episode when he needs to retrieve some intel from a young jihadist to stop a pair of nuke-enabled submersible watercraft from blowing up downtown London (a nice action sequence, by the way) -- he'll go to Bauer-ish lengths to get what he wants. And if that means threatening to murder some teenager's parents in front of her, then so be it.
Plots are tense and filmed with cinematic sensibilities, propelling episodes forward with verve. Add a driving score, tight zooms onto sweaty brows, and timely villains, and MI-5 retains what had attracted me eight series ago. Recommended for fans of non-cheesy spy shows.
Eight episodes on three discs, with visuals cleanly transferred in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and supported by a loud and active 5.1 surround audio mix. No extras, though.
Not sure what it is about MI-5 but they love ending each series with mythology-altering moments. This one is no different, but it seemed too unrealistic and contrived.
Good, solid, frantic spy drama from the UK. Take a gander.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site