Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It's 2AM the fear is gone

Although spy novelists, like John LeCarre and Charles McCarry, tend to show the drudgery and internal politics of espionage, film and TV typically do not. The Bond films make the stories even more action oriented than the novels and while 24 has some backroom elements, it is primarily action oriented. The British 1970s television spy drama the Sandbaggers is a wonderful exception.

The Sandbaggers of the title are a small group (three at the start) of special operatives that report directly to the Director of Operations, Neil Burnside. While they do go abroad, to the likes of Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Kola Peninsula, they spend an equal amount of time in the office puzzling out what to do and how to avoid trouble from their rivals at MI-5, their friends at the CIA and from the elected government.

The internal politics of government is the central drama of the show. Burnside can be read (as of season 1 or maybe just "Collection 1", which I have watched) as a committed careerist who plays every more to advance into intelligence leadership or as someone with total devotion to the team. There is evidence for both and Roy Marsden plays him in a reserved style that makes it hard to sell. Probably a mix of the two of course.

There are a few reasons not to watch this. If the description above sounds a bit boring, it probably will be. Also the quality of the film stock is poor, if you are one who must have HD quality in everything, you will be disappointed. Spy novel fans who are looking for something similar on TV will find a treat. I just found the second collection at the library and will be starting it soon.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip! I love anything British so I'll have to check this out. And honestly? The most recent Bond was TOO action-oriented, with too many cuts. Either I'm getting too old to watch modern movies (I hope not, in my early thirties) or they need to dial back on the editing a bit. Very disappointing.

Tripp said...

I think you will like it. These movies are the inverse of the Bond flim in so many ways. Neil Burnside, consciously I am sure, is made to be the anti-Bond. He doesn't frink, is awkward with women and relishes office politics.

Not to say I don't like Bond films, as I do, but this is quite different and fun stuff.

I finished the last episode of the first series last night. Yowza what an ending!