Thursday, January 1, 2009

Reilly: Ace of Spies

Martin Campbell, Jim Goddard, 1983, 11 hrs (9.0*)
This 12-part British miniseries tells the story of real life spy Sidney Reilly, who inspired Ian Fleming when he created James Bond. Reilly was the pseudonym of a Russian Jew named Georgi Rosenblum from Odessa who escaped Czarist repression by fleeing to Brazil, later Ireland, changing his name, and eventually becoming a British spy. Sam Neill, in the role that made him famous, turned Reilly into a smirking, self-confident, and suave gentleman who easily gained confidences where needed.

The series is based on the non-fiction account of the same title by Spider Lockhart, who served with Reilly in Russia, whose character is in several episodes. Part 1 begins with him in the Middle East in some subterfuge regarding oil rights for England; next in eastern Russia just preceding the Crimean War (David Souchet has a juicy role in this one); later we see him steal battleship plans from Germany before World War I, and various other endeavors, often battling his rival for information, an arms selling Russian industrialist played by Leo McKern, who didn't care whom he armed to make his fortunes. What really drove Reilly however, aside from a few beautiful women (married or otherwise), was a lifelong obsession with invading and freeing Russia from any totalitarian regime, so the latter episodes cover Reilly’s time spent there, with some interesting scenes involving Felix Derzhinsky, father of Russian intelligence and disinformation who kept Lenin in power in the precarious early days of the revolution. The entire series has a location look, very well designed and filmed, each part a mini-movie, highly recommended for fans of both espionage and history.
Note: Director Martin Campbell would later direct the 007 film Casino Royale in 2006.

Here's the Wikipedia page on Sidney Reilly


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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