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on March 18, 2013
I finally had an evening to devote to watching Spies of Warsaw (via imported discs from the UK). I found it very absorbing -- exciting, romantic, and tragic.

I know a bit about WW2 history but I'm not familiar with the novel the film is based on. I had recently read Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright, and I knew people with numbers on their arms from the old days, so I knew something of the era and events.

As a suspense piece I really enjoyed this movie. I had no idea what would happen next to the individual characters and I was completely drawn into following their various fates. As a period piece, it felt authentic in terms of clothing and attitudes. As a romance, it's credible and moving. The only problem I see with it as a drama is that there are a large number of characters and it's a bit difficult to sort them all out at first, but once the story gets moving, it all comes together. It's not some crummy superhero action movie, so people looking for CGI stunts and spandex may not care for it, but I would recommend it to anybody who likes romance, historical war stories and serious adult drama.
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on June 1, 2013
If you are looking for understated acting, excellent location filming, and a challenging plot, this is for you. Right up front I will admit to owning all of Alan Furst's novels in hardback, and I flat like his writing, especially the pre WWII time period. I will, at some risk of reputation, put this in the same league as the original SMILEY'S or SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. This is based on, not an exact copy of, the novel SPIES OF WARSAW and in my view is a good choice for the first of Furst's novels to be filmed. True to most, if not all, movie adaptations, it does drift from the book a bit, and, truth be told, if you have not read Furst it may take you more than one viewing to pick up the nuance of this story. Some of the subplots are not clearly developed and minor characters are somewhat cardboard. This is a "feet up, drink in hand" rainly afternoon show, and well worth it. Enjoy.
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on April 16, 2013
A very good movie, a well done period piece. David Tennant is excellant in this movie. DT usally plays most parts with a little quarkiness, but not this time, he plays this part as a streight dramatic part. The movie plays the period before WW11 Europe just perfect. This was really a end of a era for the world. The spy parts were done very well because thay stayed in the shadows and were not the James Bond's types but the ordinary down to earth type's that blended in. I expecially liked where they showed the James Phillbee chareture who was a real life russian spy in the british secret service until he was discovered in the 60's. The Polish locations are beautiful and the old town of Warsaw is wonderful and a testament to the spirit of the polish people who restored Warsaw right after the war which had been distroyed. The polish actors are great in this film. If their is any conplaint, it is the ending, the film did not go far enough. I did like the love story between David and Janet montgomery but I think they could have done more with it. Now I want to say how amazing Amazon is, I pre-ordered this DVD and it was released today April 16, and I received it at 2:00 P.M. my time, great service, great products, thank you Amazon.
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on December 15, 2015
The period between WWI and WWII has been explored countless times in movies in just about every genre from musicals to "The Grapes of Wrath."
Seldom, however, has there been an effort to explore the darker side of international intrigue during those two decades. This is not to say there haven't been spy movies that focus on that period but many of them were over-the-top melodrama and those that weren't were often thinly disguised propaganda films.
"Spies of Warsaw" is neither. It is too stylish to be considered gritty but it admirably conveys the shadowy world of spy vs. spy at a period in the world's history when most of the populations of Europe and the Americas preferred not to think of the growing threat of fascism. Horrified by the industrial-strength slaughter of World War I, the majority of people on both continents wanted nothing more than "peace in our time" and were willing to sacrifice just about anything - including the sovereignty of small nations - to have it.
There were some, however, who read the tea leaves and worked diligently to prepare their countries for what they were certain would be a war that would be even more horrific than WWI. "Spies of Warsaw" tells the story of French intelligence officer Colonel Jean-François Mercier, a hero of both the First World War and the all-but-ignored attempt by the fledgling Soviet Union to annex Poland. Mercier, a cavalry officer, fought with the Poles to beat back the Soviets and winds up being posted to Warsaw as a military attache. His real job, however, is to run the French embassy's intelligence network; a task he undertakes with ruthless efficiency. It is in the role that he meets the beautiful lawyer Anna Skarbek.
David Tennant as Mercier and Janet Montgomery as Skarbek were nicely paired in this BBC mini-series. Tennant brought a degree of frustration and anxiety to his role of a spy that very few people listen to and Montgomery played Skarbek with what I thought was nice blend of coolness and courage. The supporting cast - especially Marcin Dorocinski as Polish Colonel Antoni Pakulski - did excellent work. The cinematography was well done - though some critics thought it "washed out" - and the costuming was excellent.
The series suffered, however, from what I thought was a rushed resumption of the relationship between Mercier and Skarbek. Early in the series she is living with a Russian journalist who has escaped from the Soviet Union and now writes articles condemning the communists. Mercier meets her on a blind date to a diplomatic function and is captivated by her. They have an affair and at some point he tells her that she must break it off with the Russian. Mercier leaves Poland for Paris and when he returns he learns that the French ambassador in Warsaw has arranged to have the Russian deported to the USSR and an almost certain death. Anna breaks off her affair with Mercier as a result. A year later Mercier sees the Russian at a conference, learning then that he was not an anti-communist journalist but a Soviet spy. He sends word to Anna that her former lover is alive and in a dramatic scene Mercier and Skarbek reunite on the eve of the German invasion of Poland. As a viewer, I needed at least 10 more minutes of film to show how Anna took the news, how she processed it, and then came to her decision to reunite with Mercier.
That criticism aside, I found this to be a well done production and well worth watching not just once but again and again.
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on April 18, 2013
The story is very well portrayed in the period, all costumes and environment evidently well researched and the slow pace captivating.

The spies are real people with real missions, so if you are expecting cars exploding and that sort of stuff you're not going to find it here. I think it lacks in suspense a little and that's why I rated it 4 stars.

David Tennant can read the breakfast menu and still do a great job. He plays a somber yet sexy spy and it always amazes me how he can change with every character he plays.

I enjoyed it and looked forward to the second part after the first one was over (saw it when it first aired in the UK). I must admit I didn't read the book so I don't have the usual "the book was better" comment to make.

Overall, if you are a Tennant fan, it is absolutely a good show to see, he performs as usual and looks absolutely wonderful as Jean Mercier.
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I am a huge supporter of BBC entertainment, not to mention a fan of David Tennant from way back. For me, the two part "Spies of Warsaw" was one of the can't miss propositions of the season. There is an absolutely tremendous story of World War II intrigue and heroism at the center of this production, it seems impossible that this television miniseries didn't work on almost any level. The narrative is choppy, the characters are underdeveloped, and Tennant seems devoid of emotion throughout. Moments of "Spies of Warsaw" should have been both heartbreaking and harrowing, but (no matter what happened) I remained strangely apathetic throughout. In every instance, just as it seemed like something was about to happen, the film cuts away to another location. While the first part isn't terrible, more uninvolving than anything, it looked like we were on track for the second part to ratchet up the human drama and suspense. Any hope I had, however, for an upswing came to a crashing halt as the cliffhanger is resolved in two seconds and largely off screen!

It's a strange miscalculation, and an alienating one. Maybe there was simply too much material to incorporate into a two parter. Indeed, the presentation spans many years and jumps to assorted locales throughout. But we never stay anywhere long enough to really care about the situation. I never felt like this was life or death (even as characters were dying) because the screenplay never gets close enough or shares adequate details of the intrigue with the audience. Instead of digging into the political aspect of the drama, "Spies of Warsaw" tries to hedge its bets as a romance as well. After Tennant meets Janet Montgomery, the two are instantly in love despite an apparent lack of chemistry. The talented cast of supporting characters languish while we spend time on this uninspired romantic pairing. And if I thought things couldn't get any worse, the finale is absolutely ridiculous when it should have been powerful and unforgettable. This is really TRULY a great story, the filmmakers just never get a hand on it.

Much of the blame must fall on Tennant, who is either totally miscast or misdirected. His performance is so one-note, so emotionless that it makes it difficult to care about his travails. He is usually so appealing, here (in an effort to be tough, I suppose) he is completely devoid of personality. Even though I've just watched this series, I want someone to instantly remake it! The focus has to be on the story, it is powerful stuff that deserves a better telling. I would rate Part One of "Spies of Warsaw" at 3 stars. I neither loved or hated it, I still saw the potential although so much of it had remained unrealized. Instead of getting better, though, Part Two became almost unbearable to me at 1 1/2 stars. And in the climactic moments, I was laughing out loud at how poorly it was dramatized. It turned into pure corn meant to captivate the audience! Even corniness can inspire emotion if done correctly, but this didn't touch me. I was just glad that we'd finally come to the end. KGHarris, 3/13.
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on June 12, 2014
Fortunately I had not read the book on which this was based, so I could enjoy the production just for itself. It's certainly dark and tense, but it's also wonderfully romantic and heroic and beautiful--with a satisfying ending, which I personally need for closure! The cast is very good--who cares if the actors aren't actually French or Polish or German? It's the storytelling that matters, and that's well done. Frankly, it's easier to understand the dialogue without heavy accents getting in the way. The character which David Tennant portrays has been said, by other reviewers, to seem emotionally restrained. But I never had that sense at all. He was a man totally focused, completely absorbed by his work, which needed a clear, cool head because of the danger he was putting himself in. When he did show his emotions, it was because he was deeply moved. David Tennant is certainly a very skilled actor and it is always a pleasure to watch him interpret whatever role he takes on. I'm so glad I ignored the negative reviews and enjoyed this splendid production!
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I was thrilled when the BBC TV series, "Spies of Warsaw" became available on DVD and streaming video. Emmy-winning writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais adapted the script from Alan Furst wonderful novel and did a phenomenal job!!.

If you are not familiar with him, Alan Furst is an American author of historical spy novels. He is one of my favorite authors of this genre, along with Eric Ambler and Graham Greene. Most of the author's novels are set just prior to or during the Second World War. Furst is noted for his successful evocations of Eastern European peoples and places during the period from 1933 to 1944.

In this mini-series, French, German, Russian, Polish, (etc.), intelligence operatives are locked in a life-and-death struggle. Espionage is their arena. Beginning in 1937, "Spies of Warsaw" is set amid the lives of the rich, famous and powerful, their underlings and the very visceral realities of pre-war Poland, France, Russia and Germany. Involved here are Polish German industrialists, SS officers, Bolsheviks, Jewish refugees, French military officers and the inevitable women who are available for a price...not necessarily monetary.

At the French embassy aristocratic Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, (played by David Tennan) is a decorated hero of WWI, "The Great War to End All Wars!" In the 1920's he also fought in a Polish unit against the Red Army. Colonel Mercier finds himself sucked into a world of abduction, betrayal and international intrigue from the diplomatic salons to the back alleys of Warsaw. Mercier simultaneously finds himself in a passionate love affair with Anna Skarbek (Janet Montgomery), a League of Nations lawyer involved with a Russian journalist. The intense love affair between Jean-Francois and Anna intensifies as German tanks drive through the Black Forest.

I found myself addicted to this series...riveted to the screen. it is true to the book in story and in spirit. I found it to be a thrilling, straightforward espionage tale. Very highly recommended!!
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on February 26, 2014
Turns out the Doctor can act ... bringing just the right turn to this very BBC piece, which sheds light on period of history seldom dramatised - the few years leading up to the declaration of World War II.
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I am a real fan of the BBC drama shows that are out on TV now. They involve great acting, storylines and cinematography. This show just missed that quality level because of a slow moving script and dialog. It was a turbulent time right before WWII and everyone in Warsaw who was a politician or a diplomat was a spy it seems. There was enough possible scenarios and story line that this could have been really good but it just seems that none of the cast had a real passion for their roles. The acting seemed awkward and stiff, even uninspired at times.

The series is broken into two parts and Part One for me was better and it seemed to move more quickly. Part Two was very slow and it just seemed to drag on. Was it worth watching, yes. Was it great, no. It is based on a novel and I thought it should just move faster. I don't want to put in any spoilers but you should watch it as a period piece about a time in history but don't expect to be overwhelmed.

I was supplied a DVD to review and I promised to provide a fair and honest review.
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