DVD Reviews: The Secret Agent & Capital

Timing is what makes one person an Oscar winner and another a character actor. Toby Jones had what seemed like an Oscar winning role as Truman Capote in Infamous. He played the writer that befriended two killers in order to write the chilling crime novel In Cold Blood. In a case of bad timing, Infamous came out a year after Capote starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the same role as Toby. Phillip walked away with the Academy Award and Toby ended up in Your Highness. Toby has been very active as an actor with roles in The Hunger Games. Captain America and Harry Potter film series. Turns out he’s a major force in British television with two of his most recent miniseries coming to home video. Capital and The Secret Agent present two novels as three episode miniseries with Toby Jones in lead roles.

Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent reminds us that Russian agents causing chaos in the West happened way before the internet. Mr Anton Verloc (Toby Jones) seems like just a normal owner of a smut shop in London’s Soho district. He has a loveless marriage to Winnie (Broadchurch‘s Vicky McClure). She’s married him since he can provide a home for her mother and autistic brother. Thing is that Anton needs a second gig to support them. Instead of an Uber driver, he finds himself operating as an agent for Russia. The Russian Embassy wants him spying on local anarchist groups. He has the perfect cover since he’s already an outlaw in the seedy underworld. The embassy isn’t too happy with Verloc’s work. They need him to stage a special operation by causing a terrorist incident and linking it to the anarchists. He is far from a smooth operative like James Bond. He gets his bomb, but things don’t go smoothly. Turning the novel into three hour long episodes is a smart move since it’s a rather faithful adaptation of the novel that doesn’t cram it all into one movie. Toby is properly cast as the slightly seedy yet rather nebbish Verloc. Ian Hart (The Hour and the Times) plays a perfectly shadowy character with plenty of depth. This is the fourth time the BBC had adapted the novel since 1967. Screenwriter Tony Marchant had previously written the scripts for the excellent period legal drama Garrow’s Law. This is highly engrossing miniseries with the Russian angle making it rather contemporary.

Capital brings together several families on Pepys Road in suburban London. They all find a note in their mail declaring, “We want what you have.” The message is received in a variety of ways by the various residents. Is it a prank? Is it a threat? Or is it an over eager real estate broker? The neighborhood’s value has soared over the last few years as a neighborhood formerly known for having an immigrant population is now the hot address. Roger Yount (Toby Jones) works at a bank putting together major deals. He’s recently moved into the neighborhood thus helping boost the real estate rates. He’s counting on a major bonus coming from the bank based on his various projects, but feels he gets stiffed by an ungrateful boss. Others fear they’re going to get deported. A few realize they can’t afford the neighborhood, but are too old to want to pull up roots. There’s a lot of real fears expressed along the block. John Lanchester’s novel feel properly presented in another three episode series that doesn’t drag.

Toby gives amazing leading roles in both miniseries. He’s the Richard Chamberlain of the 21st Century minus a beard, rosary beads and kimono. Both mini-series deal with fears of our time: terrorism and real estate prices. Odds of being blown up are less than your taxes soaring as property values double in the neighborhood. While the both miniseries are offered on separate boxsets, but deserve to be enjoyed as a double feature on a snowy weekend. Toby proves he more than the other Capote with The Secret Agent and Capital.

The videos is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfers look fine for both movies. The Secret Agent has a vintage look to the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo for both miniseries. The sound mixes are fine so you can hear what’s going on around the corner when Toby gets paranoid in two different centuries. The miniseries are subtitled.

No bonus features for either boxset.

Acorn Media presents Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Directed by: Charles McDougall. Screenplay by: Tony Marchant. Starring: Toby Jones, Vicky McClure, Stephen Graham, Ian Hart, Tom Goodman-Hill. Boxset Contents: 3 episodes on 1 DVD. Released: December 6, 2016.

Acorn Media presents Capital. Directed by: Euros Lyn. Screenplay by: Peter Bowker. Starring: Toby Jones, Rachael Stirling, Lesley Sharp, Gemma Jones, Adeel Akhtar. Boxset Contents: 3 episodes on 1 DVD. Released: November 8, 2016.

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