“The problem is that there is too much intelligence.” The corridors of power at MI5 are perceived as all-knowing technology-driven epicentres of knowledge. Yet accumulating intelligence is of no use if you can’t sift through to identify what is important. It may be as simple as turning to page eight and reading what it has to say…
What Is Page Eight About?
Page Eight is a political thriller starring Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz. Johnny Worricker (Nighy) is a workhorse MI5 intelligence operative.
When he is given a report to read by the MI5 Director – and longstanding friend (Michael Gambon) – he does as he is told, right down to the detail; loitering at the bottom of page eight is an explosive allegation.
What follows is a very quiet and quintessentially British spy thriller. Not here the Hollywood yelling and screeching away in SUVs. Nighy is perfectly cast as a man who simply wishes to do his job, even if that job of speaking truth to power makes him some powerful enemies.
The dialogue is so measured as to be verging on monotone at times, which makes it all the more effective when flashes of anger cross Johnny’s tongue.
His life is portrayed as frequently undercut by his professionally suspicious nature; a strained relationship with artist daughter Julianne (Felicity Jones battling defiance and tears throughout) adding to his initially muted presence.
Page Eight Official Trailer
Is Page Eight Worth Watching?
As I mentioned earlier, Page Eight doesn’t go in for fireworks. The script is loaded with threats and implications bubbling under otherwise measured speech; even Johnny shaking off a tail is done with calm car park switching efficiency.
This makes for a film where it feels like the weight of an entire country could crash down on Johnny’s shoulders at any minute, but has to hold off just a little longer to see what he is going to do.
Johnny’s neighbour, Nancy (Weisz) is an X factor in his life. Weisz exudes presence in this movie; we are encouraged to be as suspicious of her as Johnny is.
Page Eight never quite gets over how gosh darn coincidental the script needs to make events in order for the pieces to slot together. The chemistry that Weisz ignites in her scenes with Johnny successfully sells his later choices, notwithstanding a rather eye-rolling culmination that had this reviewer puff out his cheeks in irritation.
Page Eight is a thrumming experience where the calm swan you can see is betrayed by the frantic paddling of legs hidden beneath the surface.
A bullyingly charismatic performance by Ralph Fiennes as Prime Minister adds plenty of flavour, as does blunt and pointed delivery from Saskia Reeves as Home Secretary. Judy Davies as a MI5 colleague of Johnny’s smacks of utter realism too: politics enter the fray when modern intelligence can no longer rely on focusing on single ‘big bad’ enemies.
When Gambon and Nighy share the screen Page Eight is a delight. That their public united persona descends into bickering when alone speaks to a long-standing mutual respect.
Nighy (who we are told has fallen in love too hard and too often in the past) slinks around the screen enjoying jazz and giving off an air that mixes regret and sadness, but also confidence and duty.
Lick your finger and turn the page, who knows what you will find nestled within the detail?
Words by Mike Record