Mar 30, 2011

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

Fair Game

One of the best spy movies of 2010 hits DVD and Blu-ray this week from Summit Entertainment: Fair Game, from Doug Liman, director of The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith and producer of Covert Affairs. In Fair Game, Liman finds the Le Carré-esque spy story at the heart of the infamous Valerie Plame affair, and makes the most of it, bringing the same "in the moment" sort of hand-held, real-time camera work that captured the action in Bourne to the conference rooms of CIA headquarters in Langley–and making intense debates just as exciting as a car chase! (Read my full review here.) The only extra seems is a commentary track with the real Valerie Plame Wilson (played marvelously by Naomi Watts in the film) and Joe Wilson (played by Sean Penn), which is a bit disappointing.  I would have like to hear from Liman. Still, Fair Game is a fantastic spy movie (among my favorites of the year), and well worth checking out at home if you missed its limited theatrical run. Retail is $22.99 for the DVD and $30.49 for the Blu-ray, though both are available much more cheaply on Amazon, of course.

The Alan Bennett Collection

Perhaps even more exciting are Alan (The History Boys) Bennett's Cambridge Spies teleplays "An Englishman Abroad" and "A Question of Attribution" making their Region 1 DVD debuts as part of BBC's Alan Bennett Collection.  "An Englishman Abroad," filmed for television in 1983 and directed by John Schlesinger, follows English actress Coral Browne (playing herself) on a cultural exchange in Moscow where she meets a mysterious Englishman.  He turns out to be exiled double agent Guy Burgess, one of the notorious Cambridge Spies.  Bennett's play reimagines the real conversations they had on all sorts of subjects, exploring Burgess' extreme homesickness and his motives for betraying his country.  Charles Grey also appears.  Bennett's fascination with the Cambridge spy ring continued in "A Question of Attribution" (1991), also directed by Schlesinger.  In that play, James Fox plays Sir Anthony Blunt, who served as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures even after his private confession of espionage.  "A Question of Attribution" imagines a conversation between the spy and the Queen (Fawlty Towers' Prunella Scales). Geoffrey Palmer (Tomorrow Never Dies) also appears. In addition to those two spy stories, you also get Bennett's plays "A Day Out," "Sunset Across the Bay," "A Visit From Miss Prothero," "Our Winnie," "A Woman of No Importance," "The Insurance Man," "Dinner at Noon," "102 Boulevard Haussmann," and "Portrait or Bust." This set was previously released on R2 DVD in Britain as Alan Bennett at the BBC. The Region 1 version of this 4-disc set retails for $54.98, but can currently be had from Amazon for about forty bucks.

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