Oh, it’s worse than that! It’s not even a movie! It’s a British mini-series.
Okay, so what’s so special about it that it squeezes into the “Wild Card” position of the “Anytime Movies” list over, say, “Casablanca” or “Gone With the Wind,” or your favorite film?
1. It’s a police procedural, as steeped in the gritty realism of shabby interrogation rooms and bad neon-tube-lighting as “NYPD Blue” or “Prime Suspect.”
2. It’s a spy story, with rogue undercover operatives (particularly an eccentric CIA operative by the name of Darius Jedburgh, played in the performance of his career by Joe Don Baker), chases (two stand out--an edge-of-your-seat hacking exercise, and another through an abandoned nuclear facility) and intrigue on the part of goverment, and commerce.
3. It’s a political thriller, with investigations into government corruption and collaboration with a privatized nuclear industry, that involves Union-busting, suppression of environmental groups, and murder.
4. It’s a revenge story, as a police investigator attempts to find who murdered his daughter...or was the bullet meant for him?.
5. It’s a ghost story, as she keeps coming back to advise and inspire her father’s efforts, as he sinks deeper and deeper into an ever-expanding investigation, that he is being encouraged to abandon.
6. It’s a psychological thriller—because maybe she isn’t really there, and is just a figment of his severe grief.
7. It’s a black comedy—it has some of the most absurd sequences ever put to film (a sumptuous dinner in an underground "hot" room), and some of the funniest lines ("He's in the field," but you have to be there).
8. On top of that, it’s a story of myth, although grounded in reality, for, impossibly, one of the main protagonists (and an alarming participant) would seem to be the Earth goddess, Gaea.
9. It has one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, by the hawk-faced Bob Peck (you might remember him as the big game hunter Muldoon in “Jurassic Park.” You don’t? One line: “Clever girl…” Now you know him)
10. It crosses genres, and expectations and always keeps you guessing not only what will happen next, but what COULD happen next. It seems to revel in going 90° from normal at every juncture. It is truly a thrilling film.
11. It has one of the most down-beat endings ever put to film. But it’s okay—it's assured the bad guys will lose. The Good Earth will win.
Sad to say, there’s no DVD release of this thing in the U.S., although it has been released in Britain. For all the crap out there that has been “digitally mastered,” there evidently is no room for this rough little gem of a movie despite its pedigree of being directed by Martin Campbell, director of two James Bond movies and the two Antonio Banderas Zorro films. One should also make note of the exceptional Troy Kennedy-Martin screenplay, and the music by the late Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton. Peck is gone now, as well, and it would have nice to see him in other things, so good is he in this. But it’s another in a long string of sad eventualities for this odd, crazy, thrilling piece of film-making.
You gotta love the British. We could never do this in the States.
They deserve the Falklands.
Craven (Bob Peck) finds a gun in his daughter's teddy-bear
Anytime Movies are movies I can watch anytime, anywhere. If I see a second of it, I can identify it. If it shows up on television, my attention is focused on it until the conclusion. Sometimes it’s the direction, sometimes it’s the writing, some times it’s the acting, sometimes it’s just the idea behind it, but these are the movies I can watch again and again and never tire of them. There are ten (kinda). This is just a bonus.
2. Citizen Kane
3. Once Upon a Time in the West
4. -Only Angels Have Wings
5. The Searchers
6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
8. American Graffiti
9. To Kill a Mockingbird
Bonus: Edge of Darkness