Follow us on

Featured Blu-ray Review: The Diplomat

August 18th, 2010

The Diplomat - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack - Buy from Amazon

The Diplomat is an Australian mini-series that aired on a premium channel in its native market last year. Given this, I think it is safe to assume most people reading this have never heard of it. I certainly didn't till it arrived on my desk. So I went into the review with zero expectations, which is arguably the best way to go into a review, but happens too infrequently.

The Movie

At the beginning of the movie we see a team of Scotland Yard detectives staking out a drug deal involving the Russia mob. They are more than willing to wait it out to see what information they can learn, after all, stopping 23 pounds of heroin from getting onto the streets is small potatoes compared to capturing one of the leaders of the crime family. However, that changes when a trio of kids stumbles onto the scene and are grabbed by the mobsters forcing Scotland Yard to make their move. The brief standoff results in one of the criminals being killed in a shootout and a member of the Scotland Yard being burnt very, very badly.

In the meantime, we see Dougray Scott as Ian Porter flying into London from Tajikistan. He's a diplomat for the British government, but when he arrives, he's taken into custody because the package containing the heroin was imported with his diplomatic seal. He's without a good explanation for how this came to be, so he is looking at a very long prison sentence, unless he talks. He seems unwilling to talk, as the people he is dealing with are quite scary. But when his ex-wife, Pippa, is threatened by the Russians, he decides to take up the offer made by Scotland Yard, and go under international witness protection in Australia.

At the same time, the detective that led the initial drug bust, Chief Inspector Julie Hales, travels to Tajikistan to piece together Porter's drug connections and strengthen her case. However, she has stumbled onto a case that is a lot bigger than the drug trade. The only one with the full truth is Ian Porter, who is not just a diplomat but working with MI-6, and it becomes apparent that the Russia mob is into something a lot more dangerous than just drugs.

By some strange coincidence, the previous Blu-ray I reviewed was Date Night. It's about a couple who get in way over their heads after they are mixed up in a conspiracy, and while trying to saves their lives, they rekindle their relationship. While watching the first part of this mini-series, I thought it was going to be the same thing. There's a giant conspiracy that Ian Porter is mixed up in, and when he's sent away to witness protection with his ex-wife, they fight at first, but then reconnect on an emotional level. Of course, while Date Night is a comedy, The Diplomat is very serious. (Also, the reason the marriage broke up was a lot more tragic than just being in a rut, it was the death of a child) and, major spoiler alert, the outcome of the marital strife is a lot more dire here.) While this is supposed to give the film more emotional heft, it doesn't work in that regard, and merely causes serious pacing issues. It takes way too long to build up, and by the time it finally gets moving, it ends in an anti-climactic way. It's like the writers didn't know how to move the story forward while giving part one a big cliffhanger.

Additionally, there are too many storylines being juggled in the first part to be effective. There's the investigation led by Chief Inspector Julie Hales, there's the giant conspiracy going on, Ian Porter's part in said conspiracy, there's the people behind the conspiracy that may or may not be on Porter's side, there's the Russian mob, the relationship parts, and probably others that have since slipped my mind. And for the most part, these pieces are kept separate, which is needed to keep the story going for three hours. However, by the second part of the mini-series, several parts have either been trimmed away or combined and the pace begins to pick up. It's still not a top-notch example of the genre, but it goes from slightly below average to above average.

That's hardly high praise, but if you are a fan of the genre, or of the cast, it is worth checking out.

The Extras

There are no extras on the Blu-ray, except for the trailer, but it has a three-hour running time and costs less than most first-run movies cost. Plus, it comes with a DVD copy of the movie. The film looks okay on Blu-ray, but nothing special. This is not surprising, as it was originally made for TV, likely had a very small budget, and it was made for the smaller resolution of HDTV. The audio is strong, with better use of surround speakers than most TV shows, but overall it is not a disc you will use to show off your home theater system.

The Verdict

The Diplomat starts off slow and even though things pick up during the second half, it never reaches its full potential. The Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack offers nothing in the way of extras and doesn't have a really strong technical presentation, but it is a bargain for fans of the genre. That said, even if you are a fan of the genre, I would start with a rental first.

- Submitted by: