Secret agents, secret CIA plots and my secret love of cycling.

As an occasional treat I’m going to let you know what I’ve been watching recently and more importantly, what I’m not watching.

Sicario

When I first saw the trailer for Sicario it ticked all the boxes, Mexican drug cartels, FBI, the hint of a decent plot rather than merely an action movie and the presence of the always brilliant Benicio Del Toro. It didn’t disappoint on any front.

It starts with FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) being involved in a raid on a house looking for Mexican kidnappers and stumbling across something much more sinister. From this moment onwards you knew that the film wasn’t going to pull any punches.

As a fan of Don Winslow’s books, I am well used to the brutality of the Mexican drug cartels and Sicario, written by Taylor Sheridan, is in a similar vein. If you are easily shocked it probably isn’t for you.

Kate is seconded to a government task force to assist on the war on drugs but the war she is asked to fight in has far more grey areas than she was expecting.

The introduction of Alejandro (Del Toro) hints at CIA involvement however Kate is never sure who is who and where the line is that she is trying not to cross.

The story of the CIA and black ops in the war on drugs is a well trodden patch but Sicario manages to take that and do it slightly differently and has you gripped for the full two hours.

The film does occasionally slip into Spanish and as my vocabulary doesn’t stretch much further than ordering a beer I was reaching for the remote to switch on the subtitles only to find them saying ‘Both speaking Spanish’. I couldn’t find a way of finding English subtitles for the Spanish parts and I’m not even sure whether I was meant to. I’m not sure it took much away from the film but I’ll never know.

One tip, be careful what you are eating whilst watching because the sight of naked, decapitated bodies swinging from a bridge may put you off your cheese toastie.

A gripping film (8/10)

Secret Agent

On the subject of ticking all the boxes, I was a little bit excited when I saw the trailers for The Secret Agent. A cast containing Stephen Graham, Vicky Mclure, Toby Jones and the criminally underused Ian Hart suggested that the BBC weren’t cutting corners. The plot idea,  based on Joseph Conrad’s novel, Verloc (Jones) spying on an anarchist group for the Russians had promise. My love of Peaky Blinders has gotten me over my slight aversion to period dramas and no expense was spared on the production, it promised to be brilliant. A BBC classic. Except it wasn’t.

Switching off halfway through episode two I realised that it fell way short of the sum of its parts. The chemistry (no pun intended) between The Professor (Hart) and Inspector Heat (Graham) had promise but the other characters lacked anything of interest despite the obvious attempts to add ‘layers’. I had little empathy with any of them, especially Verloc and Stevie (Charlie Hamblett) who seemed to have been shoe-horned in as an attempt for the actor to win an award.

They were obviously trying to make a link to today’s terror attacks but I felt myself wanting the whole place to be blown up just so the series would be over.

Now if they’d combined Graham’s character from This is England, Mclure’s from Line of Duty, any of Hart’s portrayals of John Lennon and Jones from Marvellous and you might have had a hit on your hands.

A massive let down (4/10)

In a similar vein I finally gave up on Bloodline at episode nine. It started off with promise and I’ve liked Ben Mendelsohn in everything I’ve seen him in to date but once again I found myself not liking a single character. It wasn’t terrible but when I heard there was a second series I didn’t know whether I had the stamina to crawl all the way through it. Not the worst but I wasn’t in it for the long haul (6/10)

Spotless

Too early to give a score as I’m only two episodes in but I’m getting quite attached to Spotless on Netflix. A tale of a crime scene cleaner and his wayward brother dragging him into a life of crime. It has a couple of plot holes but they appear to be there to enable the humour between the brothers. All of the characters are developing nicely and it has a lot of promise. Watch this space.

Finally, I’m going to mention sport. Despite the Euros, the lack of a football season always leaves a big gap. I probably don’t help with my fairly strict views on what makes a ‘proper sport’. My criteria is how exciting it is.

Tennis is out, it’s like watching pensioners swatting flies in an old folks home. Formula One is no more exciting than watching Sainsburys car park on a Saturday and cycling is, well, cycling. Something for children to do before Playstations were invented.

Chopper

It is therefore with great surprise that I find myself drawn to the Bike channel (Sky 214) on a Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure whether it will appeal to the real enthusiasts but I can happily switch my brain off and watch a documentary about someone doing a Triathlon or this week, the legends of the Tour De France. I learnt that Fausto Coffee in Sunderland is named after Fausto Coppi who was apparently canny good on the pedals. Who knew? Probably everyone except me and my friend Lisa but there you go.

You don’t need to be wearing lycra or drugged to eyeballs like the cyclists to watch it but it probably helps.


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