Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Turks & Caicos (TV, 2014)

An offbeat but gripping political thriller produced for British television and aired on PBS as part of the "Masterpiece Contemporary" anthology series. Bill Nighy plays Johnnie Worricker, a former MI-5 agent who gets involved with an eccentric and unorthodox CIA agent (Christopher Walken) to bring to justice a group of businessmen who have been defrauding the US government for millions of dollars in the process of building prisoner-of-war camps.

Writer-director David Hare crafts an exciting political mystery around this premise, creating in the process an odd contrast between the contemporary setting and the seemingly-deliberate stylistic throwback to what feels like it could have been a late '80s-early '90s erotic thriller, complete with a moody, saxophone-heavy jazz soundtrack and little touches, such as tape-recorded answering machines, that seem slightly anachronistic. Whether or not this is intentional, I'm not sure, but it undoubtedly contributes to the fun and off-kilter tone of the piece. Hare also successfully implies a much larger and overwhelming sense of political conspiracy that moves well beyond the immediate characters and surroundings, wisely avoiding needlessly-complicated set pieces in favor of emphasizing the tensions and relationships between the characters and the various political organizations involved.

Nighy and Walken are especially fun to watch. Nighy brings just the right amount of "secret agent cool" to the part without losing any of the character's world-weary sadness and sincerity; indeed, one of the most effective aspects of the character is his touching friendship with a local policeman and the native islanders. Walken is clearly having a ball playing the two-faced CIA agent, delivering very much an over-the-top "Christopher Walken performance" that borders on the comical and absurd at times, and yet it fits right in with the off-balance world that Hare has created in this unique thriller. The top-notch supporting cast includes Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Rupert Graves and Ewen Bremner. This was a follow-up to David Hare's earlier "Johnnie Worricker" thriller PAGE EIGHT (2011).

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