This review is from: Defence Of The Realm [DVD] (DVD)
Gabriel Byrne heads a cracking cast in this tense, convoluted plot about conspiracy & cover-up. What starts out as a seeming sleaze story dips into communist conspiracy and then becomes ever murkier. Our man is a journalist who gets a `lead' and it goes from there. Denholm Elliot plays an older journalist who knows rather more than he should. Greta Scacchi plays a political secretary who is also unwittingly close to the edge. There's Ian Bannen, Bill Paterson, good old Fulton Mackay showing that he doesn't just do comic screws, and a number of others.
Clues turn-up in the most unlikely guise and launch the plot ever onwards. You really can't afford to miss anything as tiny details are often critical. This is a thinking person's conspiracy in the best tradition. There's something about a well-made British movie of this kind that's so unnerving. It's too close to home. The urbane public-school bonhomie tinged with official ruthlessness is the stuff of nightmare civil servants. They appear so much more alarming in quietly spoken English accents. The best American thrillers always seem to lose a little ground for this reason.
The movie was released in 1985 when Fleet St was still the beating heart of British journalism, and depicts a newspaper office as it was then, scarcely changed in 50 years, before the vigorously-resisted adaptation of new technology (remember the Wapping riots?). It's a media-centric perspective, very much like "The Day The Earth Caught Fire". There's a host of interesting London location shots & views from moving vehicles. How quickly the capital changes! Filming & editing is nicely done. Tension builds convincingly. There's a good mix of close-up & long shots.The ending is a pyrrhic victory. My only grumble is with the theme & incidental music, which is electronically synthesised. It was very fashionable at the time with the `New Romantics' trend, but doesn't convey (for me) the moods of the moment as well as I think traditional instruments would've done. I've docked a star for that.
Mine came as a newspaper freebie. Runtime is quoted as 92mins, PG rating, aspect ration 4.3 & colour. Print was satisfactory in sound & vision. It even opened with Rank's `Gongman' - ah; those were the days.