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MI-5 - Volume 1  (2003)


Rating: NR

Distributor: BBC Worldwide

Release Date: January 13, 2004
Review posted: April 20, 2004


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Defending their country, deceiving their friends, no one is immune from the eyes and ears of MI-5. Enter the thrilling world of MI-5, the clandestine security service, and meet the people who make up the elite team, specifically agents Tom Quinn (Matthew MacFadyen), Zoe Reynolds (Keeley Hawes), and Danny Hunter (David Oyelowo). They tackle organized crime, terrorist activities, embassy sieges, weapons proliferation and anarchists, not to mention the conflicts and power struggles back in the office.




Like 24, MI-5 is thrilling, dramatic, and fast, yet this British series is much more concise. Each story is complex and convincing, plus the scripts are very well written. A lot goes on in each episode, and it's detrimental for a show like this to keep the action and tension going as fast as possible. I didn't expect MI-5 to be this fast-paced. Obviously there are the usual board meetings and discussions, but they're always interesting and important to the story. The way each episode is structured, the scripts are required to cover a lot of ground. A terrorist problem or situation, whatever the ramifications or involvement, needs to be introduced carefully, but also effectively in order to grab the viewer's attention. And it works, it works quite well.


The other rewarding thing about this show is the fact that the first season is comprised of only six episodes. While this seems incredibly short, the idea is actually very good. This ensures that each episode is strong in content and execution. American shows tend to run for 20-25 episodes a season, and while developments occur, there are always the filler episodes. With MI-5 there is nothing like it, no filler material at all. In fact, the first season sees a lot of development. Towards the end of the second episode, a confrontation between the good and the bad ends shockingly. Also, agent Tom Quinn must keep his real identity a secret from his girlfriend and her young daughter, a reality that comes with the job, but not being able to be truthful with his girlfriend is eating away at him.


Moreover, the show's production values are high, and the actors portray their characters realistically. Direction is strong, and overall MI-5 utilizes an exciting visual style, the way 24 combines different angles of the same scene in one image. MI-5 is a really good show and I highly recommend it. I never had the chance to see an episode on A&E when it premiered some time ago. It received very good reviews, but the show didn't take off. One reason for this, I'm sure, was the fact that nearly fifteen minutes were cut from each episode to satisfy commercial time. With MI-5 originally being a one-hour show without interruptions, the amount of story lost in each episode is rather large. Thankfully, all six episodes of the first season appear uncut on this Volume 1 release.




The BBC presents MI-5 in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is good but not great. Compression noise and artifacts present themselves in several areas of the presentation. There's also a bit of softness to the image, and pixelation also occurs. Colors are quite strong and vibrant, also pretty clear. Black levels are deep and dark tones are mostly consistent. Considerable grain also shows up in a few scenes, but the widescreen presentation itself looks nice.




The BBC presents MI-5 in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. Sound effects, background noise, and a smart/hip score come across pretty well. A 2.0 soundtrack is also featured. English subtitles are included for all of us who can't understand every accent.




Extras are spread across all three discs. The amount of material is quite impressive, and the quality is good, but not great. Each episode features audio commentary from various cast and crew. They're fairly low-key but contain some good anecdotes and interesting tidbits.


I'm not going to go in-depth on all the various featurettes, interviews, cast/crew profiles, secret credits, photo galleries, and DVD-ROM material spread across the discs, because I don't have to go through them. Rest assured, if you're intrigued by the show and like what you see, the featurettes should appeal to you. The featurettes deal with specific topics about the show, such as origins, creation, directing, editing, looks, terminology, producers, the world of spies, and it goes on. These are all video interviews without any show clips, which is rather interesting. Some video lasts over six-to-ten minutes at which point it becomes a bit wearisome. The shorter videos are concise and to the point.


The deleted scenes on discs 1 and 2 are three minutes in length each, while the ones on disc 3 last nearly sixteen minutes. They're generally nice to watch as they give the characters more personality and background. Now you should have a pretty good idea about what's included on the discs. A lot of material is present alright, but the downside is the lack of a "play all" function for the featurettes/profiles/etc.


The DVD menus are quite cool. It loads up slow, but the presentation is very unique. An MI5 agent infiltrates an office and waits at a desk for your command. In front of him are several different things that correspond to the menus, such as a stack of discs is episode selection, a manila folder lists special features, the phone presents language options, the computer offers subtitles, etc. The only downside perhaps may be the fact that you have to listen to a voice describe what's what, but after a few times the menus should be easy to figure out.


Each episode runs approximately 59 minutes and is divided into eight chapters.




There's not one single moment in the six episodes that make up Volume 1 that's boring or unnecessary. MI-5 is a concise, daring, interesting, and complex series. I can't wait for the next DVD release. BBC's video/audio is not great, only decent. The arsenal of bonus material is very good, not to mention surprising. MI-5: Volume 1 will definitely be worth your time and investment.




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