It was hard for me to find any real solid information about The Diplomat. At first I decided that it was because the film was obviously not a movie at all, but a British mini-series. The piece is broken up into two parts that you must play separately, much like a mini-series is often presented when released on home video. That was still not enough to research the title, because it hadn’t really been a mini-series at all either. Finally, a stroke of luck led me to the fact that The Diplomat hadn’t been its original name either. The release was broadcast on British television as False Witness. Apparently, it had begun as something more ambitious, perhaps a single-season limited-run series. Whatever grandiose plans might have been in store of this title, whichever title you use, it fell pretty flat almost from the start.
Ian Porter (Scott) is a diplomat returning to London from his eastern European post. He is immediately stopped at the airport by Scotland Yard and charged with drug smuggling among other things. A cop was badly burned and nearly killed in a bust related to his arrest, and Chief Inspector Julie Hales (Blake) wants Porter rather badly. Porter’s not talking, but the investigation leads to a Russian mobster named Krousov (Hany). Porter’s ex-wife Pippa (Forlani) is threatened by the Russian mobsters, and the pair end up in protective custody. They are taken to Australia, where they will supposedly be safe so that Porter can tell his story. But Porter can’t really tell his story at all. The crimes he is accused of committing were actually part of a plan to get Porter close to Krousov for MI6. A rogue agent there has started a black ops mission to bring the Russian down. Porter carries a key around his neck, but it’s not related to drugs at all. This key sets a suitcase nuclear bomb that the Russians plan to explode in Australia. Wasn’t that a lucky break? Some tension exists with his ex-wife. They lost a son, who drowned in their pool. She wants very much to get closer to Ian, but he’s focused only on finishing his mission, something he hopes will atone for the guilt he feels over his son.
This film might have all of the earmarks for a great thriller or old-school espionage film. It might have, but it simply doesn’t. You would think that Dougray Scott and Claire Forlani would have better on-screen chemistry when you consider they are a real-life husband and wife. Their relationship falls completely flat. I hope there’s more spark in the real world. It’s not really Forlani’s fault at all. She’s actually quite a dynamic presence. Her recurring role in CSI: NY was one of the best arcs that show has ever had. It was a great loss to the show when she left. Here the fault lies completely with Scott, who broods his way through the entire film. How could someone this emotionally handicapped have gotten as far as he allegedly did? It doesn’t help that pretty much all of the characters here are completely one-dimensional. In the entire three hours, I never found myself sucked into any of this.
The pacing of the movie is even worse than the acting. Director Peter Andrikidis was given way too much script to deal with here. His motto appears to have been: “When in doubt, just keep shooting”. The piece just drags on and on and appears to get nowhere at all. The flashbacks that were created to show us Porter’s angst get overused to the point where I just was sick and tired of the whole thing. Perhaps the director wasn’t confident in the emotional range of his star and felt he had to constantly beat us over the head with these scenes to get his point across. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a horse this dead since The Godfather. Hey Peter, I got the idea after the first 6,519 times you told us. In the end whatever action the story might offer is just too bogged down in the mud to get much of a rise out of its audience. It’s no wonder they changed the name for the home video release. I think that’s the smartest thing anyone connected with this mess has ever done.
The Diplomat is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with aVC-1 codec at an average of almost 30 mbps. There is a lot of quality in the image presentation. The image often looks quite spectacular. Colors are very natural and often explode with texture. The detail is incredibly high for a made-for-television piece. Close-ups reveal spot-on flesh tones. Black levels are very fine indeed. The Australian shots show some wonderful vistas. Even the fast moving action, what little there is, is smooth and provides for a rather sweet image presentation.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 isn’t quite as impressive as the image presentation, but that’s likely because there’s almost never anything actually going on. Dialog is clear enough, but Porter broods so much that he often appears to be mumbling anyway. The little bit of action there is brings alive the surrounds and the sub, if only for a brief moment of break from the incredible monotony.
This has to be one of the worst thrillers I’ve ever seen. It is moody and drags so much that time appears to stand still. I didn’t care for any of these characters except Pippa, and I wanted to pull my hair out every time the film settled into another one of those dang flashbacks. This is a painful 3 hours that you absolutely need to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, looking good doesn’t make up for wasting 3 hours of my life. There’s a germ of a good idea here, but you need some immunity from this diplomat. “Sometimes good ops go bad.”