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Great Story Whose Execution Misses Both Suspense And Heart: An Uncharacteristic Misfire From The Reliable BBC
on April 9, 2013
I am a huge supporter of BBC entertainment, not to mention a fan of David Tennant from way back. For me, "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.