Story: Nick Mullen (Gabriel Byrne) is a newspaper reporter with lofty ambitions, so he is always looking for a big story and the wilder the content, the better. After all, juicy stories get the most eyes from the public and that’s how a reporter moves up the ladder, so Mullen is ready to explore any potential breaks. When he discovers that a member of Parliament shared a prostitute with a KGB agent, he knows this could be his chance to shine. There is a public relations nightmare around the disclosure and the politician steps down, but many unanswered questions remain. A colleague of his suggests that there was a cover up and given how much bigger that would make his story, Mullen starts to dig deeper. But while the sales rise from the new drama, can Mullen uncover the truth or has his rushed approach led him to a brick wall?
Entertainment Value: This is a solid drama with some light political thriller vibes, while the narrative is complex and unfolds in interesting ways. The story seems simple enough at first, a sex scandal that brings down a politician, but soon the material shows itself to be more complicated and sometimes even unreliable. I appreciated that the narrative sometimes runs on half truths or assumptions, as it adds a layer to how we perceive what we see, which makes sense, as this is about a large scale coverup with a lot of misinformation. While you do need to pay fairly close attention to reap all the benefits of the narrative, it doesn’t feel overly complex or convoluted. We’re taken through the steps by the characters, so we see the work being done to progress the story, so this can be misleading at times, but it is a well told tale. The pace feels appropriate, brisk enough to never feel slow or drawn out, while deliberate enough to allow the slow burn to work as intended. A good story, told effectively and well performed by a gifted cast, so Defense of the Realm earns a recommendation.
This movie boasts a terrific cast, including some fantastic lead performances. Gabriel Byrne is excellent here in a grounded, effective turn that anchors the picture. He is serious and believable, keeping the material grounded and that is a benefit, since the narrative finer points are so crucial here. Byrne is reserved, but determined and while this isn’t as actively memorable as some of his performances, I think it is still among his better efforts and that’s a true compliment. Also great here is Denholm Elliott as the voice of experience to Byrne’s ambitious young reporter. Elliott is always a pleasure to watch and he is wonderful here, a strong effort that steals more than a few scenes. The cast also includes Greta Scacchi, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Bannen, Bill Paterson, and Fulton Mackay.
Use this Amazon link to check out Defense of the Realm and help support my site!