Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Break: "Reilly: Ace of Spies"

Directors: Martin Campbell, Jim Goddard 1983
Confession: I didn't watch this in the hyperbaric chamber, and I'd seen it when first shown on PBS some 20 years ago. It had impressed me then--and it bowled me over this week when I watched all 12 episodes. Probably the best mini-series ever produced, "Reilly: Ace of Spies" follows the fascinating life of Sidney Reilly, the Russian-born British agent who virtually invented modern espionage. Sam Neill is a perfect Reilly--mysterious, cold-blooded, amoral. Starting around 1900, "Reilly" is rich in history: the Japanese attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur, World War l, the Russian Revolution and its subsequent years of struggle and slaughter. The period flavor is rich, and the large British cast impeccable. Along the way there are many startling scenes, the most memorable the execution of four anti-Bolshevik women in the courtyard of the dreaded Lubyanka Prison. Television doesn't get more powerful than this.


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