A Spy Among Friends [9/10]

I have not read Ben Macintyre’s 2014 bestselling book but if the 2022 six-episode show, A Spy Among Friends, hews closely to the original, one might be tempted to dismiss it for lack of thrills and spills. After all, it’s a tale of Kim Philby, the most celebrated Soviet spy within the British secret service, a devious man who, after nearly three decades of deadly deception, defected from Istanbul in 1963. We, the viewers, know what happened, what more could the show tell us? Instead. astonishingly, the show’s carefully orchestrated narrative revolves around Philby’s final interrogation by his closest spy friend, Nicholas Elliott, and what post-defection spy games were played by Elliott and the British and American secret services. By inventing a female interrogator, played with superb depth by Lily Thomas, the storyline rapidly builds up a bewildering complexity and tension that lasts over the entire six episodes. Guy Pearce is superb in the role of Philby, but it’s Damian Lewis, as Elliott, who steals the show. Artfully directed, sustained with a fine score, buttressed with a script of delightful dialogue, A Spy Among Friends is a taut near-masterpiece of spy thrillerdom.

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