Page Eight
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“The sun will rise in the morning. I’m going to have a drink at six. That’s my faith.” - Johnny Worricker

When people reach a certain age, they know. They know who they are, what their life is about, what to keep, and what to let go of. Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) has reached that age.

He’s a clever, droll, weary, old-school MI-5 operative. He knows the spy business inside out, is committed to honor, and is infuriated by the politicos who manipulate the system for their own gain. He’s also burned some bridges on his softer side; though he’s a charming, incurable romantic, he tends to sabotage a tender moment by saying exactly the wrong thing (as his five ex-wives can attest.) Now, smooth jazz and his modern art collection help him keep his sanity.

At a political briefing attended by Johnny and his best friend and supervisor, Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon), Johnny notices a political bombshell buried deep at the bottom of page eight of a report, but he’s ordered to keep it secret. Later, when Johnny arrives home, he’s approached by a beautiful neighbor he’s never met before (Rachel Weisz), who begs him to rescue her from a date gone wrong. And, shortly after that, Johnny learns that his friend, Baron, has suddenly dropped dead. Those are too many coincidences for an old spy; Johnny knows that something is rotten in London.

Bill Nighy’s Worricker is a perfect fit as the anti-Bond operative. He’s a bit too tall and lanky and not exactly the dashing type (plus he doesn’t drive cars that turn into submarines). But he’s terrific at deadpan, expressing himself by not moving an inch, by narrowing an eye, or by tensing the tiniest muscle in his face when someone is lying or evil’s afoot. You can see the wheels turning behind those unblinking, glassy blue eyes. And, of course, there’s all the fun of watching this older man use a lifetime’s cache of razor-sharp skills to outwit a host of schemers who are planning to do him in.

To break the tension, there are plenty of gentler scenes with lovers, ex-lovers, a daughter, and friends, in which Johnny connects, bumbles, and, on occasion, totally crashes. The writers have created a character with self-deprecating humor, warmth, and wisdom despite—or perhaps because of—his awareness of his shortcomings.

The film also boasts some outstanding supporting actors. Ralph Fiennes reprises his Lord Voldemort-ish persona as the teeth-baring political villain. Alice Krige plays the distraught wife of the just-passed Benedict Baron, as well as Johnny’s ex-wife. And Judy Davis plays a scheming, crusty MI-5 colleague.

Although Page Eight is a thriller, the underlying feel is all jazz: playful, sad, sexy, hopeful. So if you’re looking for something a little different for a Saturday night, try watching this bluesy political piece with a friend and a glass of wine (or two).

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