Monday, 20 February 2012


Dark pursuit: soldier Ray Lonnen seeks terrorist assassin Derek Thompson in HARRY'S GAME. Image: ITV/NETWORK DVD.

When a politician and close friend to the Prime Minister is viciously assassinated on the steps of his own home, and in front of his wife and young children, the British leader orders a seek-locate-eliminate mission against the fugitive Irish perpetrator responsible, sending a decorated, highly trained soldier on a solo and highly dangerous undercover mission, without back up from the Irish Security Services and the incumbent British army, into the war-zone ghetto streets that were seventies/early eighties Ulster, in the classic British ITV thriller mini-series HARRY'S GAME, written by Gerald Seymour and based on his 1975 bestselling novel, produced by Keith Richardson for YORKSHIRE TELEVISION.

Ray Lonnen-a fine actor of the period (from TV successes of the time like espionage drama SANDBAGGERS and legal tome THE BRIEF) who seems to have undeservedly disappeared off television screens these days- is first class as Harry James Brown, an efficient and determined soldier with the Irish background needed to fit in to his assignment, but he also proves to be a bit of a singular maverick in his soon violent cat and mouse hunt for the inexperienced but equally tricky IRA gun man Billy Downes (as played by CASUALTY star Derek Thompson, another well chosen actor with previous pedigree hits like the drama series THE PRICE and classic films like THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY under his belt, before he became bogged down in the long running BBC hospital soap opera). Tensely made by director Lawrence Gordon Clark, and believably showing us the kind of horrors and fractured humanity seen daily on the news at the time, we enter this dark and spirit draining espionage world and receive a frightening reminder of what daily life really was like between Britain and Northern Ireland at this unstable and tumultuous period of social and political upheaval: the sectarian violence, betrayals and cruelty, a checkpoint littered hell where hooded street gangs openly throw petrol bombs and bricks at their British 'enemies', whose armed patrols of young soldiers, alongside Irish security services, searched houses and looked for snipers and bomb-makers, under constant threat from IRA squads of all ages and from all walks of life, and where armed tanks roamed the streets of cobbled and demolished houses and littered burnt out car streets in pursuit of terror subjects, whilst also trying to keep some form of fragile peace. A nightmare scenario you'd expect to see in Iraq or Afghanistan nowadays, and not so close to home...

A fast paced and engrossing three-parter grittily filmed in both Belfast and Leeds, backed with a hauntingly beautiful and lonely end theme tune by the hit Irish group CLANNAD (video: Clannad - Theme from Harry's Game - YouTube), the story ends on a memorably grim and tragic note that reminds us that there are no real winners, only losers, in such warfare. First shown in 1982, HARRY'S GAME has garnered great audience and critical acclaim then and since, and has held up well over the years. It's available on DVD from NETWORK, and can also be watched on the ITV PLAYER service on the UK's VIRGIN MEDIA TV on-demand platform.

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