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Learning from Our Mistakes 

Apple's Slow Horses and Netflix's Looop Lapeta

click to enlarge Back to the priceless camaraderie of in-person office work.

Slow Horses

Back to the priceless camaraderie of in-person office work.

SLOW HORSES. Given that my daily news podcast unloads an avalanche of horror and idiocy most mornings, what I want when I turn to entertainment is a change, something free from cruelty, stupidity and despair. The trailer for Slow Horses — a six-part Apple TV+ original starring Gary Oldman and based on a book series by British novelist Mick Herron — promised relief, boasting quick wit and a silly premise: British spies who've screwed up are sent to "Slough House" to spend their days doing meaningless paper pushing under the supervision of MI5 burnout Jackson Lamb (Oldman).

Oldman, whose range has included successfully portraying Sid Vicious, Winston Churchill and Commissioner Gordon, inhabits the slobbish Lamb as if he's relishing the squalor. The wit does come quickly and my early dismay that I'd maybe chosen A Movie Starring Men with a Cast of Men Being Men eased as the show settled in. We begin in the familiar setting of a spy on a mission — in this case, one River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), who seems to be kind of a jerk, what with losing track of the guy he's supposed to be surveilling, tackling the wrong guy, not apologizing for his mistake and then, despite orders from boss lady Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas), barreling through a bunch of civilians while giving chase to the correct suspect. To be fair, who hasn't had a bad day at work?

We next see Cartwright eight months after his blunder has landed him at Slough House among a suite of screw-ups, dumping rubbish on his office floor. Lamb has directed him to sort through this trash, but when Cartwright asks what he's supposed to be looking for, Lamb responds, "The remnants of a once promising career." Zing! That's the kind of verbal slinging I'm here for. Slow Horses also delivers a more disturbing plotline than I'd anticipated — which happens to me a lot, looking at you, Reacher — as the agents stumble into actual spy work.

As the show's arc continues, we learn more about the other disgraced spies and are offered hints into their backstories, from the comical to the tragic. By three episodes in, some lessons about how our mistakes shape us could be extracted by a viewer prone to such musings. The show's theme song, "Strange Games" by Mick Jagger, is as bluesy and cocksure as you'd expect from the man who made not getting satisfaction sound like the best thing ever. It provides an excellent soundtrack to such musings.

Mostly, though, the series bounces through three main moods: the entertaining banter, the legitimately compelling crossing and double-crossing driving the plot, and a display of spies doing spy stuff exaggerated enough to border on sarcastic. How many spy movies have we seen in which the supposedly sneaky spy stands out in the crowd, striding purposefully through a sea of bystanders not even close to blending in? The show's score heightens dramatic tension to a level that nudges the audience as if to say, "We know what we're doing here."

Which is more than can be said for our somewhat hapless spies who are busy trying to stop a white nationalist plot (straight from the headlines, people) while bonding over their shared status as losers. They want to be useful but their time at Slough House hasn't exactly sharpened what skills they might have had. Whether they prove to be misfits deserving of a second chance or permanently inept agents who belong in purgatory surely hinges on the final three episodes of the show. Here's hoping for redemption in a world that could use it. APPLE TV+.

LOOOP LAPETA. And for something completely different, I present to you Looop Lapeta, Aakash Bhatia's wild romp of a film available on Netflix. We follow Savina (Taapsee Pannu) as she races, literally, across the city and against time to save her irresponsible boyfriend Satyajeet (Tahir Raj Bhasin) from what is sure to be a gruesome death after he loses a suitcase of cash belonging to a restaurant owner who appears to have one heck of a side hustle. Things go from bad to worse to seemingly irreparable, but, since the movie's barely started, a clever viewer will be unsurprised when the scene cuts back to the opening and Savina's journey begins again.

If this sounds familiar, it's because Bhatia's film is a Hindi adaptation of the 1998 German flick Run Lola Run. Despite its status as a semi-remake and even with all the time-loop movies of late, Looop Lapeta feels delightfully unique. Like the original, it sprints along with a certain sexy-cool aesthetic, but it also takes that vibe and goes exponential, building on the story by adding subplots that heighten both the comedy and the romance. The result is admittedly chaotic and great fun. R. 131M. NETFLIX.

Jennifer Savage (she/her) is an environmental advocate and blogger at www.outonthepeninsula.com who sometimes likes to watch things. Please do not give her credit for J.A. Savage's stellar reporting.

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For showtimes call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456.

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Jennifer Savage

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