The Thriller Game of Spies depicts the fate of a British businessman who began in the 1960s helped the MI6 secret service obtain information about the Soviet nuclear program. The old-fashioned drama with the English actor Benedict Cumberbatch was filmed in Prague. It can be seen with Czech subtitles in the Apple TV + or O2TV video libraries, without them also on Netflix.
The film, based on real events, takes place during the paranoid era of the Cold War, when nuclear arms races culminated. Both the United States and the Soviet Union held weapons that could wipe humanity off the face of the earth.
Fearing that the world is on the brink of destruction, Soviet intelligence colonel Oleg Penkovsky decides to pass on top-secret military material to the enemy’s party. He hopes that the betrayal of Mother Russia will help prevent the war confrontation with which Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev is playing.
As a courier to transport Penkovsky’s information from Moscow to London, MI6 and CIA agents want to recruit a completely uninteresting civilian whom the KGB would never suspect of espionage. The choice falls on British businessman Greville Wynne, who plays Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Game of Spies is an intelligent, solidly filmed and well-played period school thriller that sometimes resembles the novels of the British writer and former secret agent John le Carré. It is also close to the drama Most, which was shot six years ago by Steven Spielberg.
In the context of contemporary films of a given genre, an old-world film may seem slow, coldly depersonalized and less action-packed. However, British theater director Dominic Cooke adheres relatively faithfully to real events.
He does not need to effectively embellish the plot, which would weaken the authenticity. He doesn’t work with adrenaline action scenes, chases, state-of-the-art technical toys or kinetic editing. He relies on the dramatic nature of the events, the gradually built tension and the plastically written and portrayed characters who believe.
The film Game of Spies is with Czech subtitles on Apple TV +, Google Play or O2TV. | Video: Lionsgate
The film is based on the official version of the British and American intelligence services provided by Oleg Penkovsky indicate for the most valuable agent they obtained behind the Iron Curtain. WITH help Greville Wynne smuggled more than 5,000 secret documents from the Soviet Union, thanks to which caribbean crisis in 1962 it did not escalate into an atomic war.
The civil, sometimes even intimate character of the story against the background of the borderline event determines the title character. Wynne is not a James Bond, but an average man with no experience in espionage, who is involved as an infantryman in the MI6, CIA and later the KGB.
Despite his initial reluctance, he is not fully aware of the risk. Playing as an agent brings excitement to his somewhat dull life, which he may have read about in spy novels. Although the tie clip he receives from intelligence services for easier identification in Moscow does not shoot the poisoned arrows, he will soon lose his life.
He is gradually becoming more and more involved in the spy role, which is also reflected in a change in behavior towards his wife and son. The startled woman, who is hiding the mission from her, does not understand why her husband started working out and why he is more passionate in bed. Eventually, he becomes suspicious of infidelity and their private lives find themselves in a deep crisis.
The Game of Spies is also a film about friendship, which – similarly to the Bridge of Spies – arises between the two actors during increasingly risky operations. Wynne’s loyalty to Peňkovský seems more crucial in a moment of crisis than loyalty to his family or homeland.
Also in Cooke’s thriller, the motif of saving one human life as a metaphor for saving the world flashes in the background. However, screenwriter Tom O’Connor failed to present the subject as consistently as the Coen brothers who wrote Spielberg’s film. At the same time, the author of the Game of Spies did not avoid several clichéd scenes, where the Russians are sung to silence and a foreigner from the West admires Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the Bolshoi Theater.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville, Angus Wright as Dickie and Rachel Brosnahan as Emily. | Photo: Liam Daniel
Benedict Cumberbatch, who has already tried the spy genre in the thriller One Must Get Out of the Wheel based on a design by John le Carré, once again confirms that he is one of the most changeable actors of our time. His Wynne is no superhero, although he shows more courage with each trip to Moscow.
The actor saw him as an ordinary and flawed guy thrown into an emergency. His nonchalant frivolity is gradually being replaced by stubbornness, nervousness and fear. In addition, in the aggravated situations he is exposed to in the last third of the story, Cumberbatch is undergoing an unprecedented transformation.
Merab Ninidze as Oleg Penkovsky. | Photo: Liam Daniel
Also worth mentioning is the moderate performance of Georgian actor Merab Ninidze. He convincingly portrays the inner rift of a Soviet colonel, who is convinced that he can save his homeland only if he betrays it.
American Rachel Brosnahan, who became famous for her title roles in the series, becomes interested in the role of CIA agent. Amazing Mrs. Maisel. This time, too, the character is given an authentic retro look and a feminine empathy that fights the pragmatism of an intelligence professional.
The architecture of Prague, which in many scenes also plays an important role in creating a believable period atmosphere represented Moscow. In addition to the Rudolfinum, the National Theater and the International Hotel, the drama was filmed in the vicinity of Klimentská Street, among others. That is, symbolically in the places where the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was located until 1990.
Game of spies
Director: Dominic Cooke
The film can be seen with Czech subtitles on Apple TV +, Google Play or O2TV, without subtitles Netflix users with the English interface turned on can watch.