Sometimes you get thrown off-schedule by long lines, late starts, transit problems, whatever, and you go for a wild card, or at least a name you recognize. I saw that Page Eight was directed by David Hare—who I temporarily forgot wrote The Reader, my most hated film since Signs, and The Vertical Hour, an overwrought, post-Iraq war play for which I paid too much to see Julianne Moore yelling ineffectually in on Broadway—and I knew who that was, somehow, so I went for it.
Page Eight stars Bill Nighy as a special intelligence officer in the UK government, and he’s been screwed over by the prime minister (Ralph Fiennes), who wants a file containing damning evidence against America’s torture practices. Nighy’s neighbour is Rachel Weisz, still reeling from the death of her activist brother in the Middle East. When Nighy decides to screw over the government—including his delightful co-worker Judy Davis, where ya been Judy?—he has to go on the run, but he’s fallen in love with Weisz (I know, ew), and his daughter (Felicity Jones) is pregnant, so he’s got stuff he really should stick around for.
For a “spy thriller” there is zero violence, zero running, zero screaming and only minimal double crossing—the whole thing is rather civilized and zingy. Hare comes from the theatre and Page Eight really feels like a play. In some instances—Mamma Mia—that’s an insult, but here it feels fresh and highbrow, high-stakes but not high-stress like Hanna, a real adult drama. I don’t think I saw a single walkout, and this was at 6pm during the festival’s midpoint. It doesn’t absolve Hare of The Reader, but gross kissing aside (I yelled “Not ok!” when it happened), it’s a promising start.