Kirk McElhearn | A village in the French Alps | 08/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Robert Littell's The Company is a massive novel that follows the history of the CIA from post WWII to the end of the cold war. As long as three books, this novel is rich and full of characterization. So it's obvious that any such book would be hard to bring to the screen, large or small. The TNT TV version, at around 4 1/2 hours, tried hard, but didn't do justice to the book. It sometimes seems like an outline of the book, and so much is left out, that the action moves too quickly, changing locations and characters, making it hard to follow. This is more so in the early part of the series; the last 1/3 focuses on a more limited situation, the attempt to find a CIA mole.
Suffering from overbearing music that is way too loud in the early parts (which makes you wonder why the music was toned down so much in the last third), and characters who are supposed to age about thirty years, but look only a few years older, The Company is, nevertheless, good TV. It will keep your attention, and the intrigue is interesting, but be prepared to give it a chance; it's hard to follow at the beginning. The acting is good, the sets and locations interesting, and the plot - good vs evil - works well, especially since we already know who won the cold war.
But if you like this mini-series, do read the book - it is probably the best spy novel I've ever read, and is so much more interesting than this over-short TV version. No film could do it justice, but I can't help but think that a couple more hours could have saved this from its weaknesses."
The Best mini-series in a long time
Jeffrey A. Cruz | 08/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Years ago I gave up the spy novel for the crime novel, so I was hesitant to spend six hours in front of the tube to watch this miniseries. I was pleasantly suprised. Addicted, actually! Hyped for more! Great acting, photography and directing. Michael Keaton was AMAZING in his depiction of James Angleton.
Sign me up for the DVD."
Phenomenal Film: Much Better than "The Good Shepherd"
D. WANG | San Francisco, CA | 01/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie, not knowing what to expect, but i must say, it was one of the most beautiful films on history, strategy, counter-intelligence, romance, and action i have ever seen. This is essentially 3 movies (each full feature length) that takes you through three critical decades within the CIA/KGB struggles during the cold war.
It follows the lives of three friends from Yale, and how the whole cold war sets a context for the arc of thier career, love, courage, and death.
I haven't seen Keaton since Batman, and Molina since Spiderman2, but i think these two actors turn out a performance of a lifetime in this film.
The three films provide enough length to really achieve a sense of intamacy with the characters, and the ending is superb. After watching this masterpiece, I felt as though i had just finished reading a truly great novel.
Regarding the Blu-Ray Conversion, it was phenomenal! You can literally see each pore and hair during close-ups, and each particle during explosions.
Two big Thumbs UP!"
Somewhere in the middle.
F. S. L'hoir | Irvine, CA | 11/24/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, I actually enjoyed this mini-series, which, as has been noted, is elegantly produced and, on the whole, well acted. The costumes and settings are also excellent and evocative of the period. Michael Keaton is especially good in the role of chain-smoking James J. Angleton. And Tom Hollander, who seems to be making a career playing various Cambridge spies (He still has to play Maclean, Cairncross, and Blunt [which will require a real suspension of disbelief].), is brilliant (as usual) in the role of Philby (whom the writers have coyly called by one of his middle names, Adrian, so that viewers who may be only vaguely familiar with the early history of CIA will not guess he is Kim, the British Soviet Mole). Hollander plays the spy with understated charm, and his suggestion of Philby's stammer never slips into parody.
Good points being acknowledged, I now come to various aspects that have been already stated in other reviews: the overproduced music (which sometimes drowns out crucial dialogue); the handsome but rather wooden hero, who ages twenty years only in the steel color of his hair; and the confusing flashbacks, which cloud the narrative. As one who is fairly familiar with the historical background, I was also annoyed by details, which I admit are picky: if the heroes graduated in the Yale class of 1954 (as has been indicated), Philby, along with Burgess, had vacated Washington in 1951; by 1954, Burgess was in Moscow and Philby was being interrogated in London, cleared, and rehired by SIS and sent to Beirut under cover as a foreign correspondant, so there is no way that the young Yalies would have been in on the Philby debacle (One of them is depicted as delivering whisky and other goodies to him in Washington.). I think I prefer the "Good Shepherd's" solution of giving real people false names [We still knew that Matt Damon was Angleton!]. Then, none of these plot points would make the slightest bit of difference.
Again, I enjoyed the mini-series, which, under the aegis of Ridley Scott, sticks to standards that are much higher than the usual U.S. television fare. I did not think the series was as bad as some reviewers have judged it, but then, I think it could have been far better with a little more planning and a lot more editing."
Measure against the novel or other mini-series?
Jeff | Northern California | 01/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sometimes it's all about the competition. If you have read The Company, you probably agree that it is a wonderful book. To say that a book that is almost 900 pages long ends too soon is saying a lot. But there is a lot good to say about The Company. And a lot in the 900 page book that is not going to make it to the screen in four and a half hours of run time.
So, if you compare the mini-series to the book, this probably gets three stars, notably for a few key changes to the plot, several omissions due to run time limits, and the problem of portraying characters who age by 40 years visually. (Yes, the music is annoying in the first episode, but it isn't that bad.)
However, if you compare to most other mini-series, this is close to five stars. After all, it starts off with a tremendous plot line and story. It does a great job of shooting realistically in foreign locales (Berlin and Budapest are done really well). And Molina and Keaton do a superb job with their characters. Keaton in particular goes to a whole new level in his portrayal of James Jesus Angelton, the real-life head of counter-intelligence in the CIA. The performances of these two actors alone make this DVD worth watching.
Sadly, Chris O'Donnell playing the main character is not up to what his two peers deliver. He just a great job as the 'Hail, fellow, well met!' Yalie, but just does not seem to ever grow or learn as he gets older. Having watched first hand the US betray their promises to the Hungarian freedom fighters in their 1956 revolt, he seems utterly surprised (first hand again) 5 years later that the US leadership does it again to the Cuban rebels on the Bay of Pigs. Some of this is the fault of the script writer, who otherwise has done a good job, but some of it is O'Donnell himself. I completely forgot that Keaton once played Batman in a movie. I was reminded often that O'Donnell played Robin. Keaton's growth as an actor over almost 30 years is remarkable. O'Donnell has stuck to what he does. Nothing wrong with that, but it means he is miscast.
But, if you like mini-series, or want to learn about the CIA and can't face up to 900 pages, The Company is recommended strongly. And if you really like the book and would like to see it visualized for you, it is a real treat."