starring Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes and Judy Davis
written and directed by David Hare
Called ``MI5``in Japan after the British domestic counter-intelligence and security agency, Page Eight is a typical British thriller. Whereas an American thriller would make liberal use of an overly-loud soundtrack, and hyper-everything - hyper explosions, hyper speed chases, hyper violence - British thrills are more intellectual, subdued and understated. Understatement is the thing. That’s what Page Eight is. It plods along, much like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011, staring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth) but it finishes big. When I watched Tinker, Tailor it almost put me to sleep and Page Eight follows a similar trajectory.
Bill Nighy is an intelligence analyst. Michael Gambon is his boss in the department. Nighy is a supremely private, quiet, discreet fellow but still a typically English eccentric. It’s those quiet, persistent, awfully competent guys who in the end turn out to be the most dangerous because everyone underestimates them. You don’t know how clever they really are until it’s too late.
Michael Gambon has a report evidencing that the U.K. government had knowledge of the American C.I.A.’s system of secret prisons for the detention and torture of terrorism suspects, that the Prime Minister (Ralph Fiennes) knew of it and did nothing even as British citizens were caught in the American system. It’s not how allies are supposed to treat each other. It’s a politically damning revelation because by failing to act in his citizens’ interests the Prime Minister effectively is acting as an American mole within Downing Street. Gambon figures it out, but he gives the report to various analysts to harvest opinions and options for making the intelligence actionable. But old fashioned, relatively unpopular Nighy, Gambon’s crony since their Cambridge college days, is the only one who discovers the damning evidence in a statement at the bottom of page eight of the report. He’s the only one, other than his boss, who bothered to read it fully and meticulously.
The Prime Minister is a clever and crafty chap - vengeful if he needs to be - with no intention of taking a fall. Look out, because someone is going to be set up and framed. Guess who? Nighy knows he will have to cleverly withdraw himself from his life. The quiet sale of some valuable art work in his possession gives him the financial cushion to start saving his ass from the hopeless corruption that has overtaken government. He privately releases the information and then discreetly walks away. All of that is typical British understatement and stuffiness. It’s not sexy, but it works.