Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Categorisation: Cold War historical spy drama
Availability: Netflix – Portuguese with English subtitles
Plot: Award winning Portuguese director Tiago Guedes and creator/script writer Pedro Lopes bring this espionage drama to the screen. It is 1968, during the last year of the reign of Portugal’s ruthless dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar. Russia is about to invade Czechoslovakia, and the US is re-transmitting Radio Free Europe propaganda over the Iron Curtain from Portugal in an attempt to undermine Russia’s military efforts. The headquarters of the independent Sociedade Anónima de Rádio Retransmissão, or RARET as it became known, was established in Glória do Ribatejo, a small town north of Lisbon – hence the title of the series. It soon becomes a centre of political subterfuge. Much of the fictional action takes place in RARET where Russian, US and Portuguese spies engage in undercover activities that are characterised by terrifying brutality. Glória uses historical events (see https://pressroom.rferl.org/a/31477985.html) as an effective backdrop to this drama and the series has become a big success for Netflix.
Filming and Setting: Much of Glória was filmed in the Portuguese region of Ribatejo, using the abandoned complex of RARET and the surrounding countryside to great effect. And the effect is, indeed, spectacular. The cinematography and the authentic recreation of Portugal in the 1960s – the cars, the buildings, the interior decor, the costumes – makes this series visually captivating. RARET is mid-century modern architecture at its best. In addition, the storyline does not resile from Portugal’s dark domestic, political and colonial histories. Salazar’s fascist regime is in full view along with the ruthless brutality of its secret police (PIDE), the KGB and the CIA.
Cast: Miguel Nunes is terrific in the complex role of João Videl, the son of the Portuguese Minister and Secretary of State. Joãl has been recruited by KGB master spy, Alexander Petrovsky, played chillingly by Adriano Luz. When Joãl says he doesn’t want to kill innocent people, Petrovsky calmly replies that nobody is innocent. Great performances from both actors. The CIA agents James Wilson (Matt Rippy) and his wife Anne Wilson (Stephanie Vogt) are also unsettlingly impressive, as is the nasty Ramiro (João Pedro Vaz), who epitomises the misogynistic values of the time.
Personal Comments: Nobody is as they seem in this series, and it makes for a gripping spy drama. It might be a bit of a slow-burn at times, and the ending may be a bit discombobulating. It is nevertheless seriously intriguing, exploring, as it does, a political context that is likely to be unfamiliar to many of us. If you like a well-made espionage thriller, you will enjoy this one.