Defence of the Realm (Defense of the Realm) (1985)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

In this coolly British spy thriller, Gabriel Byrne is Mullen, a neophyte newspaper reporter who learns some tough lessons about England's Secret Service when he uncovers a story linking a parliamentary VIP to a KGB agent. Mullen decides to go ahead with this story even though his older, left-of-center colleague Vernon Bayliss (the late Denhom Elliot, "Best Supporting Actor," 1985 British Academy Awards), says it smacks of a set-up. Lo and behold, after the VIP dies suddenly, Mullen has second … More

Rating: PG (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Martin Stellman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 3, 2003
Nelson Entertainment


as Nick Mullen

as Vernon Bayliss

as Nina Beckman

as Dennis Markham

as Victor Kingsbrook

as Jack Macleod

as Harry Champion

as Arnold Reece

as Leo McAskey

as Trudy Markham

as Frank Longman

as Humphrey Channing

as Philip Henderson

as Danny Royce

as Anthony Clegg

as Lt. Col. Lehane

as Steve Dyce

as Peace Girl

as Challis

as Dietrich Kleist
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Defence of the Realm (Defense of the Realm)

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Critic Reviews for Defence of the Realm (Defense of the Realm)

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (7)

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Defence of the Realm (Defense of the Realm)


Defense of the Realm is a difficult movie to follow, especially for the first 20 minutes or so. There is so much background noise which makes it difficult to hear the leading characters, and at the beginning, you don't really who which characters are important either. Adding to the incomprehensibility is the mumbling diction of Denholm Elliott and Bill Forsyth. Eventually, I became very intrigued by the plot's suspense.
The movie shows a newspaper reporter played by Gabriel Byrne who picks up the trail of a cover-up plot, but by whom and what it is that is being covered up remain fuzzy. He is interrogated by some sort of "spooks" at MI-something or other with no legal rights whatsoever. Unfortunately, all this big suspense leads up to an insufficient event to warrant this much covering-up. We are really never told exactly what it is that happened, just given innuendos to make us think this is a really BIG deal! The ending is completely unsatisfying. There is no depth of characterization, just a lot of suspicion, of the sort designed to make the public distrustful of their government officials. The whole thing seemed like a paranoid piece of fluff, despite the presence of so many excellent British actors/actresses.


A political thriller with both Byrne and Scacchi giving good performances as journalists investigating a political scandal that gets them into more trouble than they bargained for. The story is indeed complex, requiring an attentive viewer seeking food for thought rather than a viewer in search of only entertaining thrills (though the suspense scene at the elevator is indeed nerve-wracking). Others may be turned off by its literal, fact-based approach that gives more intellectual thrills than visceral thrills, but fans of such films as "All the President's Men", "Breach", and "Shattered Glass" will enjoy this film immensely!

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