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: The atmosphere of minor-key dread continues as the younger woman, Ruth Gilmartin — played by Michelle Dockery, the star-crossed Lady Mary of “Downton Abbey” — arrives to find her mother, Sally (Charlotte Rampling), in an agitated state, scanning the tree line for intruders with an antique telescope. In very short order — which is also how it happens in William Boyd’s novel “Restless,” which he adapted for this mini-series — a disbelieving Ruth discovers that her mother is in fact Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian refugee who became a British agent during World War II and for a few years lived a life of intrigue and danger. Now, Eva fears, the chickens hatched during her days in the secret service have come home to roost in those trees.
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: All of that happens within the first 10 minutes of “Restless,” which begins on Friday night (and concludes next Friday) on the Sundance Channel. Unfortunately, the three hours of the show, while they include chases, sexual entrapment, grisly murders and lots of spycraft, never exceed the tension in those quiet opening scenes. Mr. Boyd and the director, Edward Hall (“MI-5,” “Strike Back”), have turned an entertaining and suspenseful novel into a surprisingly ordinary television production. This is not the fault of the central actresses, and “Restless” is actually quite easy to sit through because at least one or two of them are nearly always on screen.
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: In the opening, Eva hands Ruth a typewritten memoir of her spying days, which took place largely in America, where she was part of a fake news agency that planted anti-German propaganda in an attempt to move the United States toward entering the war. The show then shuttles between present and past, with the young Eva played by Hayley Atwell (the love interest in “Captain America: The First Avenger”). It’s Ms. Atwell’s show most of the time, and she skillfully gets across Eva’s intrepidness — her delight in her newfound skills combined with her constant sense of being overwhelmed by situations she never imagined.
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: It isn’t easy to reconcile the plucky but relatively one-dimensional (and very British-seeming) young Eva with the world-weary, grave character played by Ms. Rampling, who is effortlessly believable as a Russian émigré with a dark past — it’s as if Jennifer Garner grew up to be Marlene Dietrich. The two story lines feel, in general, as if they’re in different shows, and the metamorphosis of Rufus Sewell, as the young Eva’s spymaster and lover, into the more sinister Michael Gambon isn’t that convincing either. But the disparities aren’t very bothersome, partly because the stakes never feel that high. Mr. Hall’s unimaginative direction and the show’s lulling, pedestrian rhythms forestall any danger of being truly engaged with either plot.
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: He handles the occasional action scene with some grace, but Mr. Boyd writes a cerebral spy story — mostly advanced by phone calls, assignations and office conversation — and Mr. Hall doesn’t show a knack for making those quotidian scenes suspenseful. Still, devout fans of the British espionage thriller or the British cozy mystery may find themselves perfectly happy with “Restless.” Mr. Boyd’s understated script is free of hackneyed dialogue or florid emotion (no surprise), and there are niceties of language — strategically repeated phrases, Ruth’s wavering forms of address to her mother — that you don’t expect in a mini-series. And Ms.
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: Dockery and Ms. Rampling, in their relatively short screen time together, have an astringent rapport that brings to life the complicated relationship of Ruth and Eva — as well as Mr. Boyd’s themes of the forging and cracking of identity under pressure — in a way that goes beyond words on a page. Sundance Channel, Friday at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time. Produced by Endor Productions in association with the Sundance Channel for BBC One. Written by William Boyd, based on his novel “Restless”; directed by Edward Hall; Mr. Boyd and Matthew Read, executive producers for the BBC; Christian Vesper, executive producer for the Sundance Channel; Hilary Bevan Jones and Paul Frift, producers for Endor Productions.
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: WITH: Hayley Atwell (Eva Delectorskaya), Rufus Sewell (Lucas Romer), Michelle Dockery (Ruth Gilmartin), Michael Gambon (Lord Romer) and Charlotte Rampling (Sally Gilmartin). WHAT IT'S ABOUT As Vogue celebrates 120 years of fashion coverage, this one-hour documentary directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato seeks to shine a light not on iconic Anna Wintour (focus of 2009's "The September Issue") but on the fashion editors behind the throne, eight staffers from past and present who oversee the magazine's elaborate photo shoots, and who "have always been our secret weapon," says Wintour.
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: MY SAY When it comes to helming a behind-the-scenes look at the tony mag, Bailey and Barbato don't seem the most obvious choice -- their credits include "RuPaul's Drag Race" and "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." They track Vogue's growth from 1890s Gibson Girl covers to World War II pictures (of Buchenwald) to 1980s supermodels and today's celebrity focus. Along the way, we glimpse into the homes and memories of editors like 100-year-old Babs Simpson (don't get her going on Lady Gaga), steely Diana Vreeland protegé Polly Mellen (who recalls the famed snake-with-a-nude-Nastassja-Kinski shoot), and outrageously French Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele ("I meexed everyzeeng . . . put couture weeth ze jeans"). We get backstories on famous shoots -- the one with the Doberman that nearly sank its fangs into Christie Brinkley's ankle, or Liz Taylor nearly sinking hers into editor Jade Hobson during a clash of wills. Wintour provides historical context, and celebs like Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker pop up. But the filmmakers seem to struggle to get past the sleek, chic surface. What fuels and frustrates these women? The closest we get to drama is with Mellen, who reveals "a certain loneliness to being a fashion editor" (Vreeland told her to buck up) and admits some displeasure with Vreeland's abrupt firing and the arrival of more service-oriented Grace Mirabella.
Still, the sumptuous fashion spreads are eye candy for fashionistas. And just as "The September Issue" made fiery redhead Grace Coddington a star, this doc's standout has got to be editor Hamish Bowles, who is at once articulate, amusing, candid, human even. And, oh, yeah, as charming as David Niven. BOTTOM LINE "In Vogue" doesn't get quite as far "in" as one might hope, but the mag and its polished crew never fail to intrigue. Fashion may be big business, but no one talks about money in HBO's new documentary highlighting the 120th anniversary of Vogue. No way. The emphasis is on the artistry of it all, and the profound significance. As Editor in Chief Anna Wintour describes it, "Fashion can tell you everything that's going on in the world." Probably not. Ms. Wintour is just putting lipstick on the proverbial capitalist pig. As though there were something shameful about generating billions of dollars and millions of jobs by purveying clothes, accessories and beauty products. The women who are the main focus of this film—Vogue fashion editors past and present—can be forgiven for not talking about the business side of things. Most were hired to design shoots and obviously got caught up in the excitement and challenge of styling scenes. Nobody talks much about the clothes either. We learn more about the process here. The struggle, for instance, to a find model who could pose correctly because she "knew how she looked with a football on her face." How Grace Coddington, Vogue's current creative director, once studied various editions of "Alice in Wonderland" for months to prepare for a spooky avant-garde spread. How stressful it was when the ruffles were on the wrong side of a dress and had to be moved to the other side in less than an hour so the photographer could get the right shot. How on one set, a model's scarf that was supposed to trail her in the wind simply would not flutter and had to be tied to a piece of string and held aloft by an editor to simulate natural movement.
Restless weaves back and forth on two story tracks: The tale of Eva’s espionage career in the 1930s, and her conviction that her spy days have returned to haunt her in the 1970s. Her daughter finally accepts the truth of the former, but is skeptical of the latter. “The war’s been over for 30 years, for God’s sake,” Ruth chides her mother. “Why are you carrying on with all this cloak and dagger stuff?” Soon, though, she realizes her mother has become her spymaster, running her as an agent against enemies who may be daffily imaginary or lethally genuine. The uncommon acuity of Boyd’s script is immeasurably bolstered by an outstanding female cast. Restless might be the rare TV show that wins acting awards for two women playing the same role. Hayley Atwell ( Pillars of the Earth) is a marvel of nuance as the young Eva, shedding character skins — innocent schoolgirl, ruthless spy, befuddled dupe — as naturally as a snake. And Charlotte Rampling, returning to the World War II epoch that made her a star in The Damned and The Night Porter, imbues the older Eva/Sally with the manipulative skills and paranoia that accumulate over a lifetime of spying. Michelle Dockery, liberated from the Edwardian costumery and soap-opera theatricality of her role as the shrill Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, turns out to be both subtle and shapely as Ruth, buffeted by a dawning awareness that her mother is a complete stranger. “We all have secrets,” Eva comforts her. “Everyone. No one even knows half the truth about anybody else.”