‘Close to the Enemy’ – England after the war on Acorn TV and free on Hoopla

In 1946, mere weeks before he is to be demobilized from military service, British intelligence officer Callum Ferguson (Jim Sturgess) is given one last assignment: convince a German scientist and mechanical engineer (August Diehl) to remain in Britain voluntarily and help the British compete with the Americans and Russians in the military technology race.

Close to the Enemy (2016), the seven-part BBC mini-series from the prolific writer / director Stephen Poliakoff, drops Callum (and the audience) in a country hotel that the British government has essentially sublet as an off-the-books minimum security detention and hospitality center, where he proceeds to use his charm and his psychological acumen to change the homesick scientist’s mind. Into this, Poliakoff stirs the military machinations with the stories of the civilian guests at the hotel, including an American jazz band led by Angela Bassett) that Callum hires to bring life to the otherwise sleepy hotel ballroom.

Callum is a professional, the best as what he does. Brazen and bold, he is unfazed by everything and driven by a sense of duty and responsibility. But he also has a conscience, which complicates things as he tries to protect his troubled younger brother Victor (Freddie Highmore), falls in love with his best friend’s fiancée (Charlotte Riley), and befriends a former British politician (Alfred Molina) with a provocative secret that dates back before the war.

This is not about end of war and a return to civilian life but the first act of the atomic age and the prelude to the Cold War. The story wades into the murky waters of justice and national interest when Callum learns that Nazi war criminals are being protected by his own government, and it touches on PTSD in the story of Victor (Highmore), whose intensity and emotional impulsiveness threatens to get him committed or even arrested. Callum appears to have made it through the war relatively unscathed, compared to his brother at least, a man with great self-control and at peace with his mission, but his sense of justice keeps colliding with his mission.

Intelligent, provocative, and engrossing, Close to the Enemy is an historical drama with a cast of top actors and the scope of a novel. It makes a great companion piece to Poliakoff’s earlier mini-series Dancing on the Edge, which was set before the war.

Not rated, features nudity, adult language, and adult themes.

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Close to the Enemy [Blu-ray]
Close to the Enemy [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases include featurettes and cast interviews.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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