In the tradition of political thrillers such as Missing and Z, Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda is a fictionalized story that makes use of real-life events and figures. A former documentarian, Loach approaches the material in a powerful, straightforward manner that emphasizes the strengths of the script, the characters, the actors, and the situation, rather than resorting to technical means (quick cuts, mesmerizing angles, etc.) to give the film its texture and tension. There are grit and realism in Loach's world, and he eschews exoticism for the everyday -- dark pubs, small restaurants, building lobbies, back alleys, etc. His people bear the mark of those who have been involved in a long struggle, one that seems to sap and drain life from them. They breathe real, not always clean, air -- a rarity in mysteries of this sort, which often traffic in the rich and beautiful. Loach's cast is excellent, especially Brian Cox, who knows how to make quiet and stillness into a powerful presence, and Frances McDormand, whose ability to portray a range of emotions is well used. Although the pace occasionally falters, overall Hidden Agenda is a first-rate thriller that will move as well as entertain viewers.