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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy Telefilm > Waiting Time (1999/Spy TelefilmBFS DVD)

The Waiting Time (1999/Telefilm/BFS DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Telefilm: B



In the late 1990s, as the Bond films made a comeback, some films tried to take a closer look at the end of the Cold War.  While John Frankenheimer’s Ronin (1997) dealt with the talented field agents left in a new kind of cold, Stuart Orme’s TV movie The Waiting Time (1999) offers a battle between British Intelligence and The Stasi.  The Stasi was the ultra-efficient secret police of the now-defunct East Germany, a rival for the KGB or Mossad in its time.


A trespassing British agent sets off a hidden trap that brings gun toting Stasi all over him.  He tries to escape in a motor boat, but the firepower is no match and the boat explodes.  As was the case in Brian De Palma’s underrated The Fury (1978), it is uncertain whether he is dead or alive to all involved parties.  In the meantime, a female British Corporal (Zara Turner) is being interrogated and questioned over a non-stop session, until old school lawyer Joshua Mantle (John Thaw of Inspector Morse fame).  This leaves him dealing with a higher up in the MI, played by Colin Baker, a later Dr. Who.


Patrick Harbinson’s adaptation of the Gerald Seymour novel is solid, reminding us of the days when TV movies always had good writing and were intended for an audience with an attention span.  It also feels like a final farewell to the great British TV Spy shows of the 1960s and especially 1970s, though not intended that way.  Thaw is as good here as he ever was and this is cast very well.


The full frame image is somewhat on the soft side, but the camerawork by cinematographer Peter Middleton, B.S.C., is never gimmicky and is also consistent.  He does not try for a Cold War look, or anything over-stylized, nor is it the tired and over-taxes look of so many bad Spy feature films of late.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has Pro Logic surrounds and shows off Colin Towns’ score off to good effect.  The combination is better than you’d expect from a telefilm.  The only extras are good, extensive text on the cast and crew, including more quotes than usual from each.


With so many classic British TV Spy and Action shows on DVD (and video for the first time ever, for that matter), this is the kind of one-shot program that belongs on the same shelf with The Saint, The Avengers, Inspector Morse, The Persuaders, and The Sandbaggers.  The Waiting Game is a pleasant surprise that fans of this kind of storytelling will really appreciate.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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