Turks and Caicos: stylish, slow-burn spy story

TandC altCreating a sequel which lives up to the first film is never easy. It’s even worse if the second film isn’t the series finale but instead has to bridge the gap to a third part of a trilogy. So the makers of ‘Turks and Caicos’ really had their work cut out for them…

The first part of this three-episode espionage trilogy, Page Eight, was originally a stand-alone drama. It sneaked out under the radar with its carefully crafted script, deft dialogue and beautifully nuanced performances from the ensemble cast. A 90-minute made-for-TV film (which didn’t even air at prime time), Page Eight was so impressive that it has become something of a cult classic and just cried out for a follow-up. (Here’s a full review in case you’ve not already seen it).

So we were thrilled when we heard that Bill Nighy would reprise his role as Johnny Worricker, a wily old school MI5 intelligence analyst who found himself out of step with the slick new spymasters of the 21st century. T&C starts almost immediately after the events in Page Eight, which you definitely need to watch to make any sense at all of what’s happening in the second episode.

As with Page Eight, T&C comes with the kind of top-quality cast which makes every minute eminently watchable. Where some movies need three pages of exposition to explain ambiguous incidents, Nighy nails it with a one-syllable word and a wry facial quirk.

Winona Ryder and Helena Bonham-Carter play perfectly in their roles as the leading ladies at opposite ends of emotional extremes. One is dangerously damaged goods, a weak link who seems ripe for manipulation by an unscrupulous agent. The other seems cool, calm and fairly frosty under extreme pressure – but at heart, she’s just as vulnerable. As with the earliest series of Spooks, Turks and Caicos shows how human relationships, exploitation and the fragility of trust, lie at the core of many a successful espionage operation. At every level, one person is betraying someone else – but usually for the greater good…

The plot continues the theme of Page Eight and approaches the issue of whistle-blowing from an oblique angle. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, then T&C appears to be 90 minutes of Bill looking extremely dapper, delivering snappy one-liners and soaking up the Caribbean sun in a ludicrously luxurious resort. The sub-text is altogether more complex and comments on the righteousness (or not) of whistle-blowing; the underhand activities of many democratic western governments who do far more than condone the use of rendition, detention and torture; and there’s an extremely pointed jab at the previous Prime Minister and his reincarnation as a special envoy…

Oh, and there’s a murder, the hint of sexual exploitation, corporate and government corruption and an absolutely ripping turn by Christopher Walken as Worricker’s opposite number in the CIA. The shared scenes between Nighy and Walken are so masterfully understated you will wonder if anything has happened.

In fact, the storyline to T&C is not exactly extensive. Like many of the very best spy stories it implies more than it actually says, and crams multiple meanings into brief encounters. You have to go a long way back to early Le Carre to find similarly succinct plotting, and what you won’t find in T&C are car chases, gun fights, ludicrous techno spooking, running, shouting or bare-chested brawling. There is a heckuva lot of emoting, however, and a brooding sense of menace.

So. Did Turks and Caicos quite live up to its predecessor? No, but that’s hardly surprising. Page Eight set an exceptionally high standard, after all. Is Turks and Caicos better than the most of the movies you’ll find at the multiplex? Undoubtedly yes.

It certainly filled the gap until the final part of the trilogy, Salting the Battlefield, comes along. Hopefully, that will have a little more of Ralph Fiennes in it as the deliciously despicable prime minister…

8/10

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

TandC

Turks and Caicos is available as part of a three-DVD set from Amazon.

3 thoughts on “Turks and Caicos: stylish, slow-burn spy story

  1. Reblogged this on Jeez, not you again! and commented:
    A wonderful blog if you are into crime, espionage, sci fi fiction. I’m not especially (though I do enjoy legal fiction and am a Lord of the Rings fan [spent half an evening discussing the war metaphor with my offspring recently] but this had the immortal words, Bill Nighy, embedded in the text. Such an entertaining actor.

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