cast: Dougray Scott, Rachael Blake, Claire Forlani, Richard Roxburgh, and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor
director: Peter Andrikidis
180 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Showbox DVD Region 2
review by James A. Stewart
I usually love a good spy thriller. Indeed, I thought that the true story Fair Game was an exceptionally well-done piece of snuff. So, I was quite excited to get the Aussie-made TV drama The Diplomat (aka: False Witness), starring as it does Dougray Scott, and being a film about political intrigue, and reported to have more subplots than an underground allotment.
Alas, I was pretty disappointed as from the off, The Diplomat looks cheap. The framing of the flashback scenes are excruciatingly bright, as if developed in the basement of an amateur moviemaker. The gritty realism being sought was lost as the characters looked, well, a bit bored. In an early scene we see a police raid on a drugs delivery, during which one of the police officers is horrifically burned and she ends up in intensive care. Her boss talks a lot about the pain she feels for her colleague and the need to catch those responsible, but does so with a complete lack of any perceptible empathy for her ‘friend’.
This example sets the tenor for much of the mini-series, which is stretched out to 180 minutes. I found myself asking just why Scott had gotten himself involved in this project. It is clear from the outset that there is more to his character, Ian Porter’s motivation than is let on. This is perceptible from the mysterious manner in which he is acting, quite literally, and in the clichés that have been attached to his character just in case the viewer is that wee bit too dumb to notice personal angst when it’s obvious.
The Diplomat flits between Sydney and London, with a smattering of former Soviet states thrown in for good measure as all gun wielding bad guys need to be eastern European these days. Or so it would appear. Scotland Yard calls in Porter as he has signed off the shipment in which the drugs were found. Cue some deception as we quickly discover he knew very well that the drugs were there and that they form part of a much bigger game. Cue cliché alert as meddling Scotland Yard lackey gets in the way of a wider government conspiracy.
Then, as if we aren’t already reeling from the avenge-my-fallen-comrade and stick-up-for-the-little-man formula being blended in we are then shown in a dazzling flashback Porter’s playing with his now dead son. Scott’s real-life wife (Claire Forlani) plays his on screen missus and we are shown the couple in turmoil over the death of their son, losing not just their child but each other emotionally. As I said, the odd cliché is thrown in. And all of this is within the first 30 minutes.
Pleasingly, what appears a cheaply shot, poorly scripted and lazily developed film actually has some merit to it there are a fair few twists in turns as Porter and his wife go into protective custody. The acting is okay but is stymied by the unwieldy character development. I did enjoy Richard Roxburgh as Charles Von Koors, and it is not too difficult to imagine that he would be quite proficient in subterfuge should he need to engage in it.
But, at three hours long, The Diplomat is a big investment in time for not much return.