Well, it was quite beautiful to watch and listen to, brought together the best in British ensemble acting, but Page Eight was a case of the Emperor’s new clothes with no one to cry out when it came to the plot.
Bill Nighy’s Johnny Worricker is about to face the biggest challenge of his career, but a little something is bothering him. A close neighbour he has not seen for a year suddenly expresses interest in him (as this heads into almost-romance territory it is the much younger and therefore unlikely Rachel Weisz). The work challenge – Worricker is an intelligence analyst – comes in the form of a top secret file which confirms that the Prime Minister has known for some time about the USA’s black sites which obtain evidence from suspects by torture across the globe. When his old friend, the Director General dies – a too short appearance by the wonderful Michael Gambon – Worricker finds himself set up where those of ‘new blood’ methodology have ideas for reform of the secret services.
There was some excellent acting in this. Excellent scenes included Alice Krige’s all too real expression of grief at the dinner table. But it was all as if the various pieces of mosaic did not quite hang together.
Worricker’s concerns over his neighbour’s sudden interest and the lengths he went to to check her out were not matched for the young man he’d seen with her on their first encounter and subsequently saw with his own daughter. So the twist at the end didn’t ring true at all. Secondly, we were reminded, as Worricker himself was reminded more than once: this is the twenty-first century. So why was the file a hard copy? A hard copy containing text in courier font was so 1970s/80s. In the twenty-first century the file would surely have been electronic and accessed only via a very secure system? Hence the requests for return of the file also galled.
Ralph Fiennes’s Prime Minister appeared to call on his previous outing as Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon: a psychopath in nature, but not quite psychotic in this case. Fiennes really can produce some scary characters with that shaven head of his and those piercing eyes.
Page Eight is worth a watch for its beauty and talent, perhaps. But don’t expect the plot to stack up. Someone forgot to cry out to remind the production team that this had to be so. Now on BBC iplayer.