A riveting espionage thriller with romantic intrigue!
Richard Marquand’s spy thriller Eye of the Needle (1981) is a fascinating portrayal of a German spy’s devious, double life during World War II. Marquand directs Eye of the Needle with a neo-noir flavor of long chases down corridors and shadow games. It’s a full on espionage thriller with enthralling action sequences and sudden murders with a stiletto knife. I found Eye of the Needle to be an even more entertaining version of The Spy in Black.
Marquand’s finest direction is here with gripping shots of England and Scotland alongside heartfelt romance drama. Alan Hume’s cinematography steadily captures the villain’s quiet resolve and the heroine’s unhappy marriage alike with striking close-up. The tenderness of Ken Follett’s writing is juxtaposed by his vicious violence and sudden reveals. You get war suspense as millions of lives hang in the balance of the spy’s information as well as realistic human emotion that is oddly satisfying and sincere for a thriller.
I love the romantic score from composer Miklos Rozsa. He fades in serene warm music that sweeps you away into a moody feeling. He matches the darker tone of the espionage suspense, while finding an earnest sound for the passionate romance underneath it all.
Donald Sutherland is fantastic in his villainous turn as a German Nazi spy hiding away in England to collect information on the British military advances against Adolf Hitler. Sutherland plays, Henry Faber, a sociopath with no conscious or remorse believably. Normally the nice guy, Sutherland still manages to deliver a genuinely romantic performance as well as a frightening killer spy all in the same movie.
I really like the highly empathetic and sadly sympathetic wife character named Lucy Rose played by the darling Kate Nelligan. Her chemistry with Sutherland is so natural and immediate. You see all her sorrow and regret on Nelligan’s face as she kills it as a miserable wife, desperate for love and affection.
Lastly, Christopher Cazenove is interesting as the harsh and broken man David Rose. His nihilistic cynicism is fascinating as the husband that loathes and resents his wife because of his own condition, while also bearing a notable suspicion for the spy. He is an intriguing man among the endearing leads. You hate him, while pitying him at the same time.
In all, Eye of the Needle is a beautiful film creating a realistic relationship during the tumultuous times of WWII. The espionage is engrossing all its own, but alongside the lovely music and fine acting, Eye of the Needle is elevated to something special.