DVD Review: The Game (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Jamie Mercer 16.09.2017

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The Game (UK Rating: 15)

After being dealt the disappointment of The Interceptor, the BBC returns with The Game, a nicotine-stained take on a Cold War spy thriller.

Joe Lambe (Tom Hughes) is a young, trench coat-wearing MI5 officer living in London in the 1970s. He falls in love with one of his Russian contacts, Yulia, played by Zana Marjanović, and plans on defecting to the Russians. However, something goes awry. Joe is arrested and Yulia is shot by a member of the KGB who Joe is unfamiliar with. His life in tatters, Joe's MI5 superior, known only as 'Daddy' (played by Brian Cox... no, the other one), comes to his aid and insists that the supposed defection was all part of an undercover operation gone wrong and that Joe was only following orders.

The Game tries to position itself in a similar vein to the very best John le Carre novels but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy it is not. The Russkis are up to something dodgy - nobody is quite sure what exactly - and there is the distinct possibility that there is a mole.

The actors do a decent effort of bringing the script alive. There are some doubts at the beginning about Hughes' ability as a lead actor, but he gets better as the show develops.

The show itself looks fantastic and the mise en scène is on point. Everything looks and feels like it should. The script is surprisingly sharp for this sort of affair and aims to be less like a Bond flick and more grounded in reality.

Being shown on BBC America first, this suggests that some American dollar went into production - which might explain the better than average aesthetics. Speaking of Americans, perhaps The Game's biggest problem was the release of The Americans. Coming out at a similar time, it's a US take on a nostalgic Cold War drama, which sadly does the topic justice slightly better than The Game.

Rated 6 out of 10


Brooding, dark, atmospheric, and smart, The Game has just enough intrigue and suspense to keep viewers hooked until the end. The cast is varied and the characters well-written, with sharp and witty dialogue underpinning - but not undermining - the story. The Game probably has more cultural stock in today's current nuclear climate, but viewers may be left disappointed by the ending.

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