Categories A Spy Among Friends Print Media Review

A Spy Among Friends Dramatizes The Treachery of Kim Philby

“All the Thrills, Intrigue and Skulduggery of its Source Material”

by Staff | The Economist | December 14, 2022

“If i had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friends,” E.M. Forster wrote in 1938, “I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” The English author’s words are used as an epigraph to “A Spy Among Friends”, Ben Macintyre’s bestselling book of 2014 about Harold “Kim” Philby, as well as for a new television adaptation. Yet the British intelligence officer and double-agent made no such choice: he betrayed his country, his friends and his family for decades and without remorse.

Philby’s name is synonymous with treachery on a colossal scale. Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross and Donald Maclean—the other members of the Cambridge Five, a spy ring—committed many duplicitous deeds for their Soviet masters, but none can claim the title of Britain’s most notorious spy. Philby played his high-stakes game of double-cross so ruthlessly, so successfully and for so long that he acquired a different level of infamy after he was unmasked.

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Categories A Spy Among Friends Print Media Review

REVIEW: TV – A Spy Among Friends

Superb Cast and Top Drawer Script

by Alison Rowat | Herald Scotland | December 10, 2022

When the TV adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy appeared in 1979 it was judged unsurpassable in its field. Alec Guinness as George Smiley? Only a fool would try to match that.

Then came the 2011 film with Gary Oldman, and spy tale traditionalists wobbled. Ditto BBC1’s The Night Manager five years later, with Tom Hiddleston’s BTM as its USP. I hear good things about Slow Horses (Disney+), which I’m saving till the sad day I finish the novels.

In short, the competition in spy dramas is intense. Given this, ITVX, the new streaming service that replaces ITV Hub, was taking a chance having A Spy Among Friends as its curtain raiser. From a minute in, however, it was clear everything was going to be all right on the opening night.

Set in the world of posh chaps who swear in a devilishly attractive fashion, A Spy Among Friends starred Damian Lewis as Nicholas Elliott, sent to Beirut to sort out the problem of his old pal and fellow MI6 agent Kim Philby (Guy Pearce). When Philby defected to Russia there were questions to be answered back in London, and MI5’s Lily Thomas (Anna Maxwell Martin) was the steely Durham rose doing the asking.

The cast was superb and the script by Alexander Cary (Homeland) from the book by Ben Macintyre, top drawer. “I’m not a traitor,” said an affronted Philby to his Russian handler. “I’ve been loyal to Marxism and to the Soviet Union my entire adult life.” It was the movie quality production, though, that lingered longest. From post-war Beirut to grim old London, you could almost smell the money spent.

Read the rest of the original article at The Herald Scotland

Categories A Spy Among Friends Print Media Review

REVIEW: Stunning Spy Thrillers on the Streaming Services

Brilliantly Constructed

by David Pollock | The Courier | December 10, 2022

Christmas has come early for fans of high-quality British spy thrillers, with two excellent and very different espionage series now up on streaming television.

The new kid on the block is the one with the classic feel, a six-part adaptation of Ben Macintyre’s 2014 book A Spy Among Friends (ITVX). Macintyre’s work has been a telly flavour of this year, with the recent BBC hit SAS Rogue Heroes also adapted from one of his works.

The Kim Philby Affair
The original A Spy Among Friends was subtitled ‘Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal’, and it told the story – or rather, the network of stories and characters – behind the 1963 defection of high-ranking Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, now MI6) agent and Soviet spy Philby to Russia.

Adapted by writer Alex Cary and starring Guy Pearce as Philby and Damian Lewis as his friend and colleague Nicholas Elliott, the show is an account of the saga which begins in the aftermath of the spy’s flight to Moscow from Beirut.

Elliott is under suspicion as an accomplice, as he was the last British agent to debrief Philby over several days in a bugged Beirut apartment.

The first episode is slow but brilliantly constructed, one of those thrillers that’s so pitch-perfect in its writing that much of the tension comes in waiting for each new line of crisply-delivered dialogue. Conversations are conducted like swordfights, rather than exercises in simply filling the plotting gaps.

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Categories A Spy Among Friends Print Media Review

REVIEW: A Spy Among Friends-M16 Poshos and the Club That is Britain’s Old Elite

Posh Omerta

by Hugo Rifkind | The Times | December 9, 2022

Posh omerta. Let’s talk about that. It’s at the heart, pretty much, of A Spy Among Friends, a tremendous new espionage thriller on ITVX. And no, I’m not wholly clear what ITVX is either, but let’s move on.

An adaptation — like so many things these days — of a book by my colleague Ben Macintyre, it stars Guy Pearce as the treacherous MI6 spy Kim Philby and Damian Lewis as Nicholas Elliott, a friend and fellow spy who was the first to confront him. We have Anna Maxwell Martin as the fictional MI5 agent Lily Thomas, and Karel Roden as a Soviet handler known only as Sergei. At first, at least, it is basically three circling, interlocking conversations. Elliott questions Philby in Beirut before Thomas questions Elliot in the UK and Sergei debriefs Philby in the USSR.

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REVIEW: A Spy Among Friends So Good It Should Be Savoured Not Devoured

Small Screen Spectacle

by Susan Knox | Irish Mirror | December 8, 2022

ITV kindly launched an adaptation of another Ben MacIntyre book, A Spy Among Friends, the opening episode of which made me want to do exactly what the opening episode of Rogue Heroes made me want to do: Dive in and watch the whole bally thing in one go.

That was a possibility, thanks to it being available on ITV’s new streaming platform ITVX. (No, me neither – but it’s the future, apparently.) However, I decided that the small screen spectacle of Damian Lewis, Guy Pearce and Anna Maxwell Martin at the top of their games should be savoured, not devoured.

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REVIEW: A Spy Among Friends – A Terrific Espionage Drama

Emotional Intelligence

by Matthew d’Ancona | Tortois Media  | December 8, 2022

The key text is supplied by aesthete Anthony Blanche in Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. “I took you out to dinner to warn you of charm,” he says to his old Oxford friend, Charles Ryder. “Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art; I greatly fear, Charles, it has killed you.”

In modern history, rather than fiction, there is no greater example of the lethally corrosive power of charm than Kim Philby: dazzling Cambridge undergraduate; senior MI6 officer tipped to head the intelligence service; our man in Washington, where he formed deep friendships with many in the US intelligence community, notably rising CIA star, James Jesus Angleton; foreign correspondent for the Observer and Economist; and – between his recruitment in Regent’s Park in July 1934 to his death in a Moscow hospital in May 1988 – a ruthlessly devoted servant of the KGB, traitor to his country, and agent on behalf of Soviet communism.

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REVIEW: A Spy Among Friends – A New Spin on a Well-Documented Scandal

“Lewis and Pearce Especially Share Phenomenal Chemistry”

by Chris Connor | Yahoo! Entertainment  | December 8, 2022

A Spy Among Friends, the most high profile launch title for new UK streaming platform ITVX, retells the well-trodden story of the Cambridge Five. The spy ring — comprised of Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, and John Cairncross — operated in the UK from the 1930s to the 1950s, and have been well-documented on TV and film, most notably in 2003’s Cambridge Spies, starring Samuel West, Toby Stephens and Tom Hollander.

The latest take on the story takes a different approach to the story, building it around Kim Philby, here played by Memento and LA Confidential star Guy Pearce and his friendship with Damian Lewis’ Nicholas Elliott.

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