We discuss for you… A spy among friends, treachery among friends
Based on true events, A Spy Among Friends chronicles the relationship between Nick Eliott and his friend Kim Philby, an MI-6 agent who betrayed his country.
C’est quoi, A spy among friends? In 1963, MI-6 agent Nick Elliot (Damian Lewis) is amazed to discover that his colleague and friend Kim Philby (Guy Pearce) is a traitor: he has worked for the USSR for decades. Elliot insists on going to Beirut, where Philby is staying, to extract information from him, prevent him from migrating to Moscow and also understand how his friend could betray him like that. But he fails in his mission and Philby flees. Back in London, Elliot is interrogated by detective Lily Thomas (Anna Maxwell Martin): did he help his friend escape, was he a double agent himself, or was he abused like the others?
British miniseries produced by ITV, A spy among friends tells an incredible but true case of espionage from the 1960s: In the middle of the Cold War, we learn that several personalities at the highest level of British intelligence worked for the USSR, some for decades. Among them none other than the director of counterintelligence, Kim Philby, who, despite numerous suspicions, has been supplying information to the Soviets since the 1930s and passing false information to his own services and to the CIA.
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According to the book by Ben Macintyre (author of villain heroes, recently adapted for television), the series takes up this story in six episodes of almost an hour. She’s not the first to delve into this case: we’re thinking of the miniseries Cambridge spies by Steven Moffat or The enterprise. The first attempted to identify the reasons that led four Englishmen from the aristocratic elite to betray their country, while the second, taken from Robert Little’s novel, tackled the affair in a broader narrative that covered the entire Cold War. A spy among friends takes a very different angle: it focuses on the most notorious of these British spies and his relationship with a colleague of his who is also a close friend. Either Kim Philby on one side, Nick Elliot on the other.
The structure of the series is easy to explain, harder to understand. There are actually three main storylines that intertwine throughout the episodes. First in Beirut in 1963, the meeting between Nick Elliot and Kim Philby, recorded and monitored by MI6 and the KGB. Then the internal investigation in London a few days later when MI-5’s Lily Thomas (the only fictional character on the show) teases Elliot by questioning him about his relationship with Philby and analyzing the discussion in Beirut to determine if the two men were accomplices if Elliot got information from Philby, if he helped him escape, or if he was abused like the others. Finally, the series looks at the defector’s life after defecting, his difficulties adjusting to his new life in the USSR, as well as his debriefing by the KGB, who suspect he was “reverse” or a double agent. even triple.
From the 1930s to the 1960s, from the meeting of the two protagonists in Cambridge to their escape from Philby, from London to Moscow via Beirut, Istanbul or Vienna, we constantly move back and forth in time and space. That makes the series exciting as it shows the confusion of an Elliott revisiting his relationship with Philby over the memories, more troubled than he allows to appear behind his phlegm and his so British detachment; This also makes it difficult to follow the story. Better not attack a single moment or you’ll get lost in the chronology.
Also, it’s not a spy series like hometown or jack ryan ; more of a series of “living room” espionage. Not a hair-raising action scene, but long dialogues, recordings, interrogations, shadowing, debriefings … consisting of lies and the unspoken, in a succinct atmosphere of paranoia. With this slow pace, the series is a bit irregular, exciting scenes along with lengths. Especially because the whole thing is voluntarily superfluous, takes up the same moment from different perspectives and one sometimes has the impression that the story spirals around itself instead of opting for a clear linear direction.
Luckily, the pleasure of seeing Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce together on numerous occasions is more than enough to make you want to persevere. Powered by the remarkable performance of the two actors, A spy among friends thus achieves the goal implied in the title of tackling the affair less in its diplomatic or international repercussions (even if they are there, especially vis-à-vis the CIA) and more in its human dimension. It’s the story of a “friendship” that develops, perhaps with Philby’s regrets and, most importantly, the questions and doubts that overwhelm Elliot. How long had Philby been lying to her? Did he betray out of conviction, out of greed? Why didn’t he see anything? Was there ever anything genuine about their friendship? Philby may have betrayed his country, but he also betrayed his family and best friend, a man he has known and known for 23 years. What if this was the most terrible betrayal?
The Philby Affair is one of the most famous espionage cases of the last century and A Spy Among Friends has chosen to tell this story by focusing on the relationship between the famous Philby and his colleague and friend Nick Elliot. It’s a series that we’ll surely find talkative and even boring if we’re looking for a spy story full of action and twists … or on the contrary, exciting and disturbing if we get carried away by the intense dialogues, the memories and the memories leave the bitter introspection of its two main characters.
A spy among friends
6 episodes around 60′.
Available on OCS.