Turks and Caicos review — a b-movie or a thrilling adventure?
Bill Nighy emanates real threat – and far too much charm – in David Hare's intricate, gritty world. Irresistible…
In Turks & Caicos, Bill Nighy plays Johnny Worricker and Winona Ryder plays Melanie Fall. Johnny Worricker was last seen on Page Eight three years ago, standing in front of an airport departure board. He appeared in Turks and Caicos movie last night for the second installment of David Hare's post-9/11 political trilogy. The tax haven off the coast of Miami isn't the worst place on the planet for a former MI5 agent (Bill Nighy) to eat lobster on the beach, but it's much better for waiting for danger. Worricker was quickly drawn into the complex, grubby world of corrupt financiers and politicians, which satisfyingly led back to the compromised British prime minister Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes) from Page Eight. Trouble arrived in the form of CIA agent Christopher Pelissier (Christopher Walken), and Worricker was quickly drawn into the complex, grubby world of corrupt financiers and politicians.
The writing was excellent, as one would expect from Hare. Characters may have had a habit of answering every question with another question – but that could just be how spies communicate – but no needless exposition was used. The subplot of the femme-fatale finance PR was the only element that felt artificial in any manner. Hare recently stated that modern thrillers contain too much death and mayhem; Turks & Caicos contained only one murder, which he felt was too many. The funders didn't have to be sexual predators for us to realize they were slime-balls.
The cast was a who's who of Hollywood. Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Rupert Graves all had great performances alongside Nighy, Walken, and Fiennes. But this was mostly a Bill Nighy show. I was perplexed by how all the women he encounters find him appealing – he had Ryder, Bonham-Carter, and a hotel maid, played by Julie Hewlett, all jostling for his attentions last night – but that could just be jealousy on my part. Worricker may appear to be another of Nighy's lost old-boy plays on the surface, but there's a true edge and a sense of foreboding beneath the surface. Hare's rage matches Hare's.
Hare is frequently labeled as a left-wing playwright, as if his work is merely agitprop. This not only ignores the emotional richness of his plays, but it also ignores the nuance. Hare isn't interested in slamming financiers or right-wing politicians since they aren't especially nuanced targets. He doesn't expect them to do anything other than behave in their own self-interest. Hare's rage and scorn are focused primarily at politicians, benefactors, and attention seekers who pretend to be on the left but have sacrificed their values.
Beasley may only make a cameo appearance in Turks & Caicos, but he is the pulse of the island, just as he is in Page Eight. Tony Blair should be substituted for Alec Beasley. Worricker added near the conclusion, as Beasley's financial gain from his role in the war on terror was revealed: "He has the stature of a statesman. Not a politician, to be sure. This is a considerably more lucrative line of work. Is there any territorial issue in the world that he isn't capable of resolving from the comfort of his five-star hotel?" I hope Hare enjoyed writing it as much as I enjoyed hearing it. Next Monday, the third installment of the trilogy, Salting the Battlefield, will air. I'm looking forward to it.
There was a common perception that Spitting Image had run its course by the time it was pulled off the air after 18 seasons in 1996. Certainly, the audience agreed. What happened to Spitting Image, Arena? (BBC4) served as a timely reminder that nothing has come close to it since. Today's politicians may feel like they're constantly scrutinized by the media, but they don't have to deal with the cruelty of the Spitting Image latex puppets on a weekly basis. It was hit or miss, like much on-the-fly political humor, and some sketches perished on the spot. The ones that struck their target, on the other hand, were rewarded. Norman Tebbit's motorcycle bovver boy alter ego was never far away, and David Steel's career was doomed from the minute he appeared in bed with David Owen as a small child.
Most importantly, Spitting Image was apolitical. Michael Foot and Tony Benn, as well as Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine, had equal chances of receiving it. Whoever required a kicking received one. Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, and Miliband are unaware of their birth.