Friday, April 1, 2011

The Company

Mikhael Salomon, 2007 (8.6*)
A rare miniseries from TNT, and one almost well done enough to be from the BBC. The title of course refers to the CIA, and attempts to weave some fictional characters within the framework of about 40 years of CIA history and a few real life characters as well. That's the backdrop anyway, the actual story is about the search for an elusive double agent, codenamed Sasha, an American version of Britisher Adrian Kim Philby, also a character here and portrayed by Tom Hollander.

The period covered is from the start of the Cold War to the fall of the Soviet Union primarily follows three fictional Yale graduates from out of college (class of '54), to their recruitment and years within the CIA. Jack McCauliffe (Chris O'Donnell) and Leo Kritzky (Alessandro Nivola) are rowing partners, and their Russian friend is Yevgeny Tsipin (Rory Cochrane).

This is a very absorbing miniseries, with unfortunately uneven acting. Michael Keaton steals the kudos here (with some of his best dramatic work ever) as real life humanoind James Angleton, the chief of the CIA's counterintelligence unit, and was awarded with an acting nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. Usually excellent Alfred Molina is a little over the top here (as operations mgr Harvey Torriti), Chris O'Donnell is his traditionally bland self (and is in nearly every scene), while Alessandro Nivola as his rowing partner and friend Leo came off a little better. Rory Cochrane is pretty believable, thanks to excellent accent work, as the Russian emigre Yevgeny Tsipin. I always like Natascha McElhone (she's a beauty), but she's not as riveting here as in John Frankenheimer's Ronin (1998), where she was mysterious, intriguing, and militaristic as a possible IRA terrorist.

Those who like this should definitely watch Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd (2006), starring Matt Damon, based on true CIA events. It's realistic and riveting and proves that De Niro can direct also. And, of course, the excellent mini-series Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983) from the BBC, starring Sam Neill as the real life model for James Bond, Sydney Reilly, a Russian defector to Ireland who created his name and his persona.

This series, even though on TNT, did not go unnoticed - it won 6 awards out of 19 nominations, many for it's excellent cinematography by Ben Nott. Director Mikael Salomon was also given a directing nomination from the Directors Guild of America, while Jeff Beal's music won an Emmy.


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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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