Television Assessment: ‘The Property,’ a Mini-Series About Aldrich Ames on ABC

January 2nd, 2014

Performing, like spying, is the artwork of lying persuasively.

And the British should be better liars, due to the fact they are consistently picked to play Us citizens on American television shows. Their spies are clearly more fascinating — Kim Philby, the infamous British intelligence mole, was a much a lot more complex and intriguing double agent than Aldrich Ames, the wormy counterintelligence officer who marketed tricks to Moscow even after the Soviet Union collapsed.

“The Assets,” an eight-element ABC mini-series about the Ames situation that begins on Thursday, has British actors in nearly all the direct roles, including Ames (Paul Rhys), but the creators are stuck with an American spy who above almost 9 several years in the 1980s and ’90s got individuals killed and did terrible harm to the C.I.A., but was not actually quite mysterious at all.

Mr. Ames, who is now in prison serving a existence sentence, had a issue with drinking and income he and his more youthful second spouse experienced expensive preferences. Even Robert P. Hanssen, the F.B.I. agent who sold info to the Soviets for two decades, experienced a richer back again story: He was, between other issues, a member of the secretive, conservative Roman Catholic society Opus Dei. (Chris Cooper performed him in “Breach,” a 2007 motion picture.)

The genuine puzzle is not why Mr. Ames grew to become a traitor, but how on earth he evaded detection for so prolonged. His C.I.A. superiors missed all sorts of clues that he clumsily left in his wake, which includes flashy cars and outfits he could not potentially afford on his government income.

The extended manhunt that last but not least led to Mr. Ames’s arrest in 1994 is a impressive and critical lesson about human mistake and missed possibilities, but it is not an effortless tale to switch into a thriller, especially when fictional dramas like “Homeland” and “The Americans” are so a lot far more intricate and inviting.

“The Belongings” is uneven, with some excellent scenes and very a couple of negative ones. It recreates the seem and come to feel of the 1980s much much more correctly than “The Us citizens,” which is also set in Reagan-era Washington. The women’s jutting shoulder pads in “The Assets” are particularly of the time. But the display is oddly paced, and in some locations virtually comically lurid and hammy: At instances it would seem as if it ended up made in the eighties.

Mostly, “The Assets” does not make sufficient of the uncooked material. The first two episodes really don’t flesh out the agency’s blind spots, blunders and persona conflicts, but as an alternative current a compressed, sanitized account of the C.I.A.’s battle to determine the mole. The direct character is the C.I.A. officer Sandy Grimes (performed by the British actress Jodie Whittaker of “Broadchurch”), and her story is loosely based mostly on “Circle of Treason,” a guide that she wrote with a colleague who led the mole hunt, Jeanne Vertefeuille. Ms. Vertefeuille, who died in 2013, is played by the British actress Harriet Walter.

Viewers know from the outset who the mole is. The tale opens with Ames ready in a restaurant for a K.G.B. get in touch with and nervously gulping down martinis. Even when he is not ingesting, Ames is odd adequate that his co-staff mock him guiding his back again. Mr. Rhys performs the spy as sweaty, uncomfortable and extremely strange. He speaks in a menacing Clint Eastwood whisper that would make anyone suspicious.

And the C.I.A., of all institutions, should have paid out far more focus. According to “Circle of Treason,” when a group of F.B.I. agentsand C.I.A. officers took a straw poll to see who in their midst could most most likely be a traitor, Mr. Ames arrived in very first.

Sandy is not a bipolar savant like Carrie Mathison on “Homeland.” She is a wise, dedicated C.I.A. officer with two kids and an understanding husband, Gary (the British actor Julian Ovenden, who seems in the coming year of “Downton Abbey”). And as a heroine, she could be as well virtuous and a single-dimensional to keep interest.

The Russian facet of the tale, oddly ample, is better advised and a lot more intriguing, largely many thanks to however yet another British actor, Peter Guinness, who is superb and very touching in the part of Dmitri Polyakov, a basic who gave away authorities strategies for virtually no monetary reward for practically two a long time and was the optimum-ranking Soviet officer to spy for the United States throughout the Chilly War. Soon after Mr. Ames instructed Moscow about his double-dealing, General Polyakov was executed.

Spies steal secrets. The British have been when the greatest at that craft. Now they largely steal performing roles.

The Belongings

ABC, Thursday nights at 10, Jap and Pacific instances 9, Central time.

Made by Lincoln Sq. Productions. Based on the e-book “Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Males He Betrayed,” by Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille Morgan Hertzan, Rudy Bednar and Andrew Chapman, govt producers.

WITH: Paul Rhys (Aldrich Ames), Jodie Whittaker (Sandy Grimes), Harriet Walter (Jeanne Vertefeuille), Stuart Milligan (Artwork O’Neill), Julian Ovenden (Gary Grimes), Christina Cole (Louisa), Peter Guinness (Dmitri Polyakov) and Ralph Brown (Lawrence Winston).

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.