Reviews In the Nick of Time: The Spies of Warsaw

by wjw on April 25, 2013

I see that BBCA is showing The Spies of Warsaw, with David Tennant, this very evening, and I thought I’d do my best to warn you off it, since I saw it on a transatlantic flight just last week.

The Spies of Warsaw is based on a novel by Alan Furst that I very much like, along with his other World War II thrillers, so I had hopes for the TV version.  Sadly, this  is a classic BBC production, which is to say that it’s static, stodgy, low budget, and low-key.

The screenwriters made every attempt not to excite the audience unnecessarily.  The scene in which the protagonist’s girlfriend dumps him takes place over the phone, for example: did no one think to put the two of them in the same place, to milk all the drama and passion out of the situation?  This sort of thing happens over and over.  Because little of the actual drama in the scenario gets played out, the filmmakers found themselves with some extra runming time at the end, and had to throw in some pointless scenes involving a train.

I know the Furst books are a bit low-key, but honestly . . .

Nor do I believe that any of the French characters were French, rather than English character actors dressed in French costumes.  (The Poles, played by actual Poles, are more believable.)  As for the female lead, I couldn’t tell if she couldn’t act, or if she was just told not to.

Tennant is okay, though he never really gets the chance to display his acting chops.  Fenella Woolgar, as a decadent aristocrat, is the most memorable character.

The film, it has to be said, remains true to its unexciting self.  If you’re a die-hard David Tennant fan, you might want to give it a try, but you should probably read the novel first so that you’ll have a clue what’s going on.

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