It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
“MI-5” looks exactly like what it is: a movie derived from a TV show. The show was called “Spooks” when it ran on the BBC for ten seasons, from 2002-2011. In the U.S. it was known as “MI-5.” This reviewer never saw the show, but on the evidence of the movie, he feels he didn’t miss much. Its relative longevity, though, indicates the series must have had a dedicated following, which is no doubt the prime audience for this theatrical elaboration. Others viewers may be less appreciative.
An action espionage tale vaguely in the Jason Bourne mold, "MI-5" does indeed play like a TV spin-off, but one in which the filmmakers said to their team, “Listen up, all! We’re now doing the cinema version. What can we do to make it cinematic?”
The answers supplied by Bharat Nalluri, one of the TV show’s original directors, and his collaborators are pretty much what you’d expect: super-widescreen format, lots of panoramic wide shots (especially from helicopters), big action scenes, and a story capacious enough to encompass roles for a number of reputable character actors plus a lead part for one hot young TV-into-film star, “Games of Thrones”’ Kit Harington (who has been bruited as a potential replacement for Daniel Craig as 007).
The film kicks off with a rather stereotypical action set-piece that cuts between two main locations: stuck in traffic during a rain storm, a high-security van carrying an important American jihadi is attacked by gun-wielding motorcyclists, who free the prisoner and create mayhem before speeding off; back in the MI-5 subcommand center, agents and their superiors watch this attack via a bevy of security cameras but find themselves unable to thwart it. The man in charge, Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth, a veteran of the TV show), gives the order to release the prisoner in order to prevent a bloodbath among ambient civilians.