Spies of War­saw

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Sun­day, 8.30pm, UKTV Sight un­seen, this two-part Bri­tish-made minis­eries was on its way to our pick of the week spot. Af­ter all, it has a cast led by re­cent Doc­tor Who David Ten­nant and is based on the book The Spies of War­saw by Amer­i­can writer Alan Furst, who has 10 or more at­mo­spheric spy nov­els set in Europe dur­ing World War II to his name. But there’s just one wee prob­lem, as the real Ten­nant would have said in his na­tive Scot­tish lilt, were he not once again bung­ing on the English gen­tle­man act he does so well: it’s just not very good. From the first scenes it is clear that, in line with lav­ishly re­stored pe­riod sets and cars, Spies of War­saw is go­ing to be a vic­tory of style over sub­stance. Doe-eyed women fawn over Ten­nant as he fences with an op­po­nent. This is fol­lowed di­rectly by long, lin­ger­ing shots of the ac­tor’s ch­est­nut hair be­ing en­gulfed by wa­ter in the shower. Even­tu­ally we sur­ren­der to a slow pan down his scrawny Scot­tish body. What is this, soft porn? Wet haired and clad in a towel, look­ing about as sexy and charis­matic as a cat af­ter a bath, Ten­nant as mil­i­tary at­tache Jean-Fran­cois Mercier is only mildly sur­prised to find one of the women from the ear­lier scene beck­on­ing with curled fore­fin­ger from his bed. Yes, I know Ten­nant once played Casanova, en­tirely con­vinc­ingly. Here he looks like a school­boy who wants to be James Bond when he grows up. There is a sim­i­lar lack of ten­sion and cred­i­bil­ity as the plot thick­ens and Mercier finds him­self caught up in ab­duc­tions and be­trayal in the salons and back al­leys of wartime War­saw.

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