Page Eight (tbc)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/06/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Watchable, well written political thriller enlivened by a terrific central performance by Bill Nighy and a superb supporting cast.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by playwright David Hare, Page Eight stars Bill Nighy as Johnny Worricker, a senior MI5 intelligence analyst whose boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies of a heart attack shortly after revealing disturbing facts about the U.S. in a secret file. Using his network of contacts, Johnny soon finds himself caught up in a web of secrets and lies that reaches all the way to Downing Street and Prime Minister Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes).

Meanwhile, Johnny also has his hands full dealing with his estranged and newly pregnant conceptual artist daughter (Felicity Jones) and becomes suspicious of the ulterior motives of his sexy new neighbour (Rachel Weisz as Nancy) when he discovers that her brother was killed in suspicious circumstances while serving overseas.

The Good
Bill Nighy is excellent as Worricker, delivering a quietly impressive, calmly controlled performance that's consistently intriguing; he also has terrific chemistry with the always excellent Michael Gambon, who makes a lasting impression on the film despite only having a small handful of scenes. There's also strong work from a superb supporting cast that includes Rachel Weisz (who somehow manages to look more beautiful with every film), Felicity Jones (ditto), Saskia Reeves (as the beleaguered Home Secretary) and Judy Davis (as a dangerously officious colleague), while Fiennes is effectively ... familiar as the PM.

It's a common complaint with political thrillers for the plots to become increasingly labyrinthine and to spiral out of control, but Hare keeps a tight grip on his material throughout and the script is refreshingly straightforward, allowing key events to take place off-screen without short changing the audience. There are some terrific speeches too, particularly Worricker summing up the problem of page eight (which refers to the problematic page in the secret file) to the Home Secretary.

The Bad
The only real problem with the film is that it's light on actual thrills, at least of the running, shooting and car chasing variety. You'd also think Nighy would have learned his lesson about romancing women half his age after the disaster that was Wild Target but no, here he is kissing Rachel Weisz, the bastard.

On top of that, the staccato dialogue feels overly stylised in the opening act of the film, though that settles down once it gets going.

Worth seeing?
Page Eight is an engaging thriller that succeeds thanks to a smart script and a compelling, quietly confident central performance from Bill Nighy. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 23/01/2019 23:44

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