John Steed (Fiennes) is a high-powered London secret agent, always prepared
for action. This is proved by an opening sequence in which he walks down
the street and everyone he encounters tries to kill him, including the old
lady with the baby carriage. We soon learn that he is merely being tested,
and he passes with flying colors. Armed only with his smart derby and his
umbrella/sword, he seems ready for anything. Anything, that is, except Dr.
Mrs. Peel (Thurman) is a knockout, of course. But she is also director
of a major corporation, she is fantastically intelligent, and she can match
Steed's fencing ability stroke for stroke, as he soon finds out. When the
two meet, a sense of mutual distrust sparks their relationship. They are
brought together to solve a crime involving Mrs. Peel's invention, a "weather
shield" designed to protect the United Kingdom from natural disasters.
It seems the shield, which had been operating flawlessly, has been sabotaged.
But the puzzling thing is that according to the surveillance tapes, the
saboteur appears to be none other than Mrs. Peel herself.
After a little investigation by Steed's superiors, code-named "Mother"
(Jim Broadbent) and "Father" (Fiona Shaw), the suspicion arises
that the one behind the destruction of the weather shield is diabolical
madman Sir August de Wynter (Sean Connery). Steed and Peel are assigned
to make a visit to his extensive property to ascertain more information.
In so doing, they discover that Wynter has in his employ another Mrs. Peel
(either a clone or a robot; we're not quite sure), and she's bad to the
bone. Also they find that the madman has invented a machine with which he
can control the weather, and intends to take over the world by doing so.
Let's just say if his demands are not met, it's going to get rather chilly
around here. So now our duo must stop Wynter (to coin a phrase), and Steed
must differentiate between Mrs. Peel his partner and Mrs. Peel who's trying
to kill him. And be finished in time for tea.
This film may be criticized for not living up to the TV series, but I have only the faintest memories of the show, so I must judge it simply on its own merits. And I have to say that its lead actors are the only element that makes it any different from any other action film. The terribly proper-ness of Steed and Peel are the central theme, and Thurman and Fiennes pull this off nicely. There are a lot of visual treats, including an ingenious scene where Emma is trying to escape from a staircase like the kind in an Escher painting, and a cameo by Patrick Macnee (the original Steed) as an invisible man. But Don MacPherson's script is just another Bond clone, especially villain-wise. Connery is suitably over-the-top, but it's nothing new. ***½
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