Thursday, 1 September 2011

Page Eight

Page Eight is a highly enjoyable top spy film shown on the BBC on Sunday August 28th having only been released in June and which will be shown in the United States later in the year.

It stars the brilliant Bill Nighy who never fails to please and whose film 39 was shown the previous Sunday and will be reviewed later. Both films are political fictions based on true events in the UK, Page Eight on Extraordinary Rendition Torture camps and 39 on the willingness of British top families and politicians to compromise with Hitler rather than face participation in another World War.

In Page Eight Bill plays a rounded Spook from the Oxbridge generation with his boss played my stalwart Michael Gambon and a Tony Blair type Prime Minister played by Ralph Fineness. When a say rounded I mean typical Oxbridge creative recruited when at University by his tutor and whose wife became the wife of the tutor because she was pregnant and Bill had already fallen in love with someone else. The daughter has become a recognised and commercially successful contemporary artist who in one moment of truth he tells her that her paintings are either fakes which he does not think or reveals an alarming sense of despair which fills him with horror and regret at his own failure as a father.

The sub plot red herring is when Bill is invited to help a young neighbour he had not met before who shares the same apartment block. She wants his visit to help her get out of a relationship with a young man he later learns she has slept with once. He also sees the same young man at the opening party of an exhibition of his daughter’s paintings. We the audience expect this to have significance although few if any will anticipate the actual connection.

The young woman does have an interest him in the need for help to secure the truth about the death of her brother, a believer in non violent action who she is convinced, as is her father, was executed by the Israeli’s when participating in a peace mission action. Bill uses an undercover operator working as a journalist to obtain a copy of the Israeli confidential file which confirms the murder of her brother.

The main issue is the presentation to Bill of a file which reveals on page eight that the Prime Minister must have known of the existence of the various bases throughout the world where the USA held Terrorist suspects, using torture to gain information. The subject is topical because of an ongoing court case in the USA, in the news today, in which an aircraft firm is suing for money it alleges is due from the USA government for arranging rendition flights. Extraordinary rendition is another name for kidnapping by a government without recourse to the usual rules and regulations.

The information has come from a secret informant known to his boss who then dies of a heart attack. There is nothing sinister in the death which the boss knew was coming but explains why he was insistent on Bill dealing with the information in the file. In addition to Bill and his boss someone in MI5 who appears to have an important role whose designation I missed and played Jill Tankard attends a meeting with the female Home Secretary who tells her but ask her not to do anything including not telling the Prime Minister. Tankard is hostile to Bill and to his boss and warns that his future in the service is in question.

What is revealed is that Tankard has operated a secret service within the secret service on behalf of the Prime Minister in association with the USA Homeland security run by the Republican President. It is a Democrat Senator who has flown to the UK to give the information to Gambon before his death. Tankard uses her son to run a top notch one man secret surveillance unit which again is highly topical as I have been reading the huge report by Liberty on the subject which was followed by a House of Commons select committee report and one by a committee of the House of Lords and which in turn followed the reports and warnings of the Information Commissioner.

Bill accepts the invitation from a third party to attend a college reunion dinner at which the Prime Minister is the Principal guest. The Prime Minister keep Bill waiting until after midnight to have a private chat and attempt to bring him on side, offering to make him part of a new Homeland Security set up if he gives the only remaining copy of the file. That given to the Home Secretary has been yielded as she is made Deputy Prime Minister.

Bill also appears to do a deal on the basis that the Government admits the existence of the report on the death of his neighbour’s brother coupled with an admonition to the Israeli’s.

He makes peace with his daughter who he has learned is expecting a child which she proposes to bring up after a brief relationship with a concept artist. He sells one of his favourite paintings for cash from a art gallery owner former lover, (his flat is covered in paintings) and gives another to his now worshipping you have given be my life back young neighbour who offers to flee with him. He makes his departure/escape via a northern airport at the same time as the Funeral of his former boss and ex wife‘s husband. Wikipedia states that the scene where Bill gives the go ahead to the BBC to release information relates to the neighbour’s brother. I think not.

At the airport while Bill surveys the various flights to around the world and clutching the bag with the money he deposits the file in a bin. I think he has already passed a copy of the file to the BBC and authorised them to release the information bringing down the Prime Minister as his boss had wanted him to do. The parting scene with the neighbour also suggests that they had a future and perhaps she will join him when he is settled if he ever is. Meanwhile she has the paining on her wall and I wonder what arrangements he has made for the other paintings and his flat which are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to be converted into the cash he will need unless he plans to return after the dust has settled, perhaps in a sequel! It did not matter as I enjoyed the film from start to finish. The film boasts of asking 21st century about the role of governments in the technological era of international crime and international terrorism, and with a week to go before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

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