Wanting more, waiting, score! That sums up this Bill Nighy fan’s post-Page Eight experience — being in a holding pattern for more than two and a half years until the second and third installments of The Worricker Trilogy were screened (on BBC Two) and then released on DVD. Were they worth the wait? You bet.
Anything with Bill Nighy in it is worth biding one’s time for, and so it is with Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield, which complete writer-director David Hare’s The Worricker Trilogy.
The three-part spy thriller begins with MI-5 Director General Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) giving his friend and colleague, MI-5 intelligence analyst Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy), a secret report that implicates Prime Minister Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes) in some nasty foreign affairs. If this information were to be made public, it would rock both MI-5 and the British government, so machinations ensue, Johnny’s life is in danger, and the only thing left for him to do is make himself scarce. Where he goes is the question we’re left with at the end of Page Eight.
As the title Turks & Caicos implies, Worricker chose the warmth and sun-soaked sands of this British territory for his hideout. While he doesn’t exactly have a charmed life on these tax-haven islands, it has been a safe one. That is, until he meets the mysterious American, Curtis Pelissier, played brilliantly by Christopher Walken (who, unfortunately, doesn’t dance in the film).
As identities are revealed, shady business dealings come to light, and an American with links to the Prime Minister is murdered, Worricker must make a deal of his own and get help from a couple of contacts in the UK if he is to fight for what’s right and make it out alive. One is former-MI-5-officer-turned-journalist Rollo Maverley (Ewen Bremner), the other is ex-spook and ex-girlfriend Margot Tyrell (Helena Bonham Carter), who ends up getting herself into a right mess in the process.
Margot’s freedom (nay, life) is also in jeopardy now, so she goes on the run with Johnny, which brings us to Salting the Battlefield. Their stop-and-go movements across Europe are a bit If-It’s-Tuesday-This-Must-Be-Belgium-ish, except they’re not playing tourists and they are being tracked by undercover operatives in Germany.
When needs must, the pair return to England, where Johnny’s still-pissed-off daughter Julianne (Felicity Jones, The Diary of Anne Frank) is about to make Johnny a granddad, and Deputy Prime Minister Anthea Catcheside (Saskia Reeves, Luther) and MI-5 Acting Director General Jill Tankard (Judy Davis, Impromptu) have been engaging in political maneuvers of their own. And when Worricker and Beasley finally face off during a tense sit-down at 10 Downing Street, things come to a head as they come full circle.
Throughout The Worricker Trilogy, the acting is top-notch, with fine performances put in by the actors noted above, as well as by Rachel Weisz, who plays Nancy Pierpan, Worricker’s politically active neighbor in Page Eight, Winona Ryder, who costars as financial PR guru Melanie Fall in Turks & Caicos, and Rupert Graves, who portrays The Bridge Foundation director Stirling Rogers in Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield.
(The jazz soundtrack, too, which like the best-dressed Nighy himself, adds style to the substance of the trilogy.)
Until PBS (which first screened Page Eight in America) or another television programmer or VoD service brings Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield stateside, US viewers can only watch the entirety of The Worricker Trilogy on (Region 2) DVD, which makes for nearly 5 hours of spy-thriller entertainment, excluding the interviews and “making of” extras.