Monday, April 8, 2013

Doctor Who in Wartime?

David Tennant stars in Spies of Warsaw

By David Luhrssen
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 Doctor Who’s David Tennant seems at first glance an odd choice as Col. Jean-Francois Mercier, France’s military attaché in Poland before World War II. After all, Tennant is so obviously British—and doesn’t even bother to affect an appropriate accent in BBC America’s “Spies of Warsaw.” But let’s not be picky; trickiness with mixing and matching accents has been a problem since pictures began to talk.

In “Spies,” Tennant plays the adventurer in a suitably low key, with confidence and derring-do. The two-part mini-series (out on DVD) presents a historically accurate context for its nicely detailed sets and costumes and solid supporting cast. Especially good is sultry Janet Montgomery as Anna, a League of Nations lawyer and the series’ love interest. Aside from winning her heart, Jean-Francois must contend with Nazi thugs as he crisscrosses borders by stealth or false passport, gathering Germany’s war plans. Alas, his pessimism over the prospects of world peace falls largely on deaf ears.

“Spies of Warsaw” is well shot but conventionally scripted, a historical genre piece with no surprises but a firm grip on our attention. It’s a lot like one of those airport novels—a compulsive page-turner whose familiarity is integral to its appeal.

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