Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Categorisation: Spy drama
Availability: Apple TV
Storyline: Based on Mick Herron’s 2010 novel this dark and funny series follows the antics of a group of MI5 spies who have disgraced themselves in some way or other and have been dispatched to Slough House as a punishment. So Slough House is where the MI5 failures are sent. It’s a grubby and miserable place where unimportant work is undertaken and everyone has a secret. To add insult to injury they are nicknamed the ‘slow horses’. Jackson Lamb is the boss, a man with secrets of his own, and he regularly makes it absolutely clear to everyone how utterly useless they all are. When River Cartwright, a newly disgraced recruit, joins them in exile his insubordinate actions create chaos and risk for everyone.
Film-craft: Award-winning comedian, scriptwriter, actor and producer Will Smith has done a fabulous job of adapting Herron’s espionage novel. The dialogue is sharp and Smith manages to bring together a perfect mix of comedy and more serious elements in a witty and intelligent script. The cinematography is perfectly grimy.
Cast: The acting is outstanding in Slow Horses, and everyone stands out in their own particular way. Gary Oldman nevertheless leads the troupe and is wonderful as Jackson Lamb. He is obnoxious, abusive, unkempt and in every way dislikable. Yet he is the most compelling of all the characters and is the essential lynchpin of the series. Interestingly Oldman played George Smiley in the 2011 series Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, a brilliantly unobtrusive and composed performance. In Slow Horses he plays an older and much more battle-weary spy, but he is equally impressive. In a great counter to Oldman’s Lamb, Jack Lowden is terrific as the enthusiastic and ambitious River. He is certain he doesn’t want to end his career in Slough House and the exchanges between River and his boss are some of the best in the series. Kristin Scott Thomas is also formidable as the scheming Diana Taverner, the deputy head of MI5. Her office is in the more salubrious part of town.
Personal Comments: Slow Horses is a darkly humorous, intense and clever series that shows us a rather different side of the spy business. While the plot might be overly complex and not particularly credible, particularly in the second series, none of this really matters. The wonderful cast carry it triumphantly from one hapless situation to the next, making it a riveting watch. I loved every minute of it.