Picks and Pans Review: Master Spy
CBS (Sun., Nov. 10 and 17, 9 p.m. ET)
If watching television weren't my sworn duty, I would have bailed out of this miniseries about Robert Hanssen (William Hurt), the FBI agent who pleaded guilty in 2001 to spying for the Soviet Union and later Russia. The acting in the first hour is artificial and the writing—by Norman Mailer, no less—is laughably obvious.
Take heart, though: Master Spy gets better as it goes along. Once you accept the stylized approach—Hanssen can't pass a mirror or a window without talking to his reflection—you begin to appreciate the script's insights into the complex personality of a superpatriot and devout Catholic who sells his country's secrets for more than 15 years and eagerly snaps nude pictures of his wife (Mary-Louise Parker) for the titillation of his best buddy (David Strathairn).
The duality of Hanssen's character is best illustrated by his ambiguous relationship with an exotic dancer (effectively played by Hilit Pace), whose body entices him while he speaks of saving her soul. Gradually, Hurt's performance reveals a man undone by a false sense of himself.
Bottom Line: Stay with this spy game
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