On my mind… Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy is the Godfather. Of what, I’m not sure. He probably is someone’s godfather thinking about it. Maybe he’s the Godfather of rather dry, distinctly witty and faintly amusing supporting roles in British comedies?

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Salting the Battlefield

As some of you may or may not know, William Francis Nighy is one cool cat. And in the last few years or so he’s got even more Bill Nighy-like. Concentrated Nighy you might say. It’s always a delight when he pops up on screen, seemingly playing the same role no matter the film. Maybe he just plays himself? Maybe that’s his charm?

Whatever… his appeal is there, however elusive. And to pay our respects (I know he’s not dead, but we can still pay our respects) here’s my selection of his best performances.

Cameron Foster – State of Play (2003)
Brilliant writing with a great cast which included John Simm and James McAvoy, this TV miniseries introduced a lot of people to his work and probably launched him onto the A-list.

Billy Mack – Love Actually (2003)
With such a big cast in this film each was left with little screen time, Nighy made his count with some tender scenes as an aging rocker in this Richard Curtis love-in.

Philip – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
It’s often hard to describe his style as an actor. So understated, almost like he’s barely doing anything – as demonstrated opposite Simon Pegg in this modern zom-com classic.

Davy Jones – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
No matter the actor, they all love a chance to play dress up and get big and silly. And if you’re going to be in a Pirates movie, go large. Nighy obliged bringing Davy Jones to life with aplomb.

Quentin – The Boat That Rocked (2009)
The sauve leader of a group of pirate radio DJs at sea, Nighy’s role is not a big one in this film, but he managed to steal all his scenes with a raised eyebrow or a twitch of a smile.

Dad – About Time (2013)
Apparently this film about family, friendship and making the most out of life was a wake-up call for Nighy. Whatever it was, it was another great collaboration with Richard Curtis.

Cliff – Pride (2014)
Playing a Welsh miner protesting the strikes in the ’80s, Nighy gave one of the most restrained performances in years and, in some ways, all the better for it. More of this please.

PRIDE

Secret State – proper thriller or nothing new?

Talk about a mixed reaction to the first episode of Channel 4’s four-part political conspiracy thriller Secret State. Some critics think it’s pretty good, others have torn it apart.

Me? I sit somewhere in the middle, probably more on the positive side. Despite the plot being a little predictable at times, it’s well shot and Gabriel Byrne (Deputy Prime Minister) is a compelling lead, with a solid supporting cast including: Charles Dance (Chief Whip with dark motives?), Gina McKee (suspiciously well informed reporter), Douglas Hodge (alcoholic ex-MI5 chief turned private investigator).

Setting the scene
Based on the book A Very British Coup, the story begins in the aftermath of an explosion at a US petrochemical site in Teeside, which results in the death of 19 people. After securing compensation for the families whose loved ones died in the explosion, the Prime Minister’s plane suspiciously crashes on a flight back from the US and he dies.

Dawkins (Byrne) reluctantly assumes leadership and promises justice for the victims’ families. As he pressures the petrochemical company to make good on their compensation promise, he begins to make discoveries of a conspiratorial nature that lie at the heart of Government.

channel 4 thrillerSuspicion abound!
Within the first 20 minutes or so, it becomes abundantly clear that nearly every major character has hidden/murky motives. We’d expect nothing less from a conspiracy thriller right?

It does feel that plot points are contrived at times. Characters like McKee’s reporter pop up at key moments with teasing information to divulge.

Everyone appears to be watching everyone – GCHQ are listening intently to the PM, the order coming from someone ‘very senior’. My money is on Chief Whip (Dance) who’s clearly up to something – he always is. His gravestone should read, ‘Born to scheme’. Ahem, let’s move on.

I understand why people expect thrillers to deliver on every level these days, they’re up against wise, old dogs – State of Play, Edge of Darkness – and keen, new youngsters – Homeland.

A proper PM
Ladies love a bit of Byrne right? He’s great casting. Calm, decisive, authoritative, charismatic, knowledgeable – everything you’d expect from a leader. You get the sense he’s on the back-foot initially, but his Irish fire will kick in and he’ll tear into those that oppose him. At least, that’s my hope.

Numerous references get made to his military background. It would be great to see him bring righteousness to the political arena. A biblical PM, delivering great vengeance and furious anger against his conspirators, Pulp Fiction style. Too much?

The long game
In terms of the London setting and production values, it’s visually impressive. Great shots of Whitehall and the corridors of power. The score is suitably tense, although perhaps stolen from the Bourne films?

I imagine many characters will reveal their true motives as things progress. Despite some shortfalls in terms of giving the audience too many ‘standard conspiracy’ elements, it’s worth sticking with this show. It’s only a four-parter, so probably best judging at the end.

I’ve seen two episodes and it’s shaping up well. Not an instant classic, but worth your time. If nothing else than to imagine what it’d be like if Byrne was PM. Now that would be thrilling.