A CALL TO SPY
(director: Lydia Dean Pilcher; screenwriter: Sarah Megan Thomas; cinematographers: Robby Baumgartner, Miles Goodall; editor: Paul Tothill; music: Lillie Rebecca McDonough; cast: Stana Katic (Vera Atkins), Radhika Apte (Noor Inayat Khan), Sarah Megan Thomas (Virginia Hall), Linus Roache (Maurice Buckmaster), Rossif Sutherland (Dr. Chevain), Rob Heaps (Paul), Laila Robins (Pirani), Marc Rissmann (Klaus Barbie), David Schaal (Colonel Gubbins), Samuel Roukin (Christopher), Andrew Richardson (Alfonse), Mathilde Ollivier (Giselle), Matt Salinger (William Donovan), Joe Doyle (Father Robert), Marceline Hugo (Sister Francis), Lola Pashalinksi (Mrs. Atkins), Cynthia Mace (Madame Dubois); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Sarah Megan Thomas; IFC Films; 2019-UK)
“It has an exciting true story to tell.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lydia Dean Pilcher (“Radium Girls”) directs and Sarah Megan Thomas is the writer and star of this engrossing wartime spy drama, that is based on a true story. It chronicles three women spies working for the Brit spy agency as their early female recruits.
Sarah Megan Thomas plays Virginia Hall, an American woman living in London, with a wooden leg (due to a childhood hunting accident). She tried in vain to become an American diplomat but was rejected because of her handicap, and now works for the Brit spy agency Special Operations Executive (the SOE) but not as a spy. It wasn’t until 1941 that Britain took on women spies.
The film will follow three women spies as they work for the SOE in other capacities until they become recruited as spies. The women are recruited by Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), a Romanian Jew who settled as a refugee in England and became a secretary at the secret Special Operations Executive. She convinced her bosses that she wants to fight back against the enemy and has the ability to do so as a spy. She thereby recruits Virginia and the pacifist brown-skinned Muslim, Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte), an Indian-Russian princess and an expert wireless operator to join her in a mission. The three women, with little support from the government except for Churchill’s generous support, take on a dangerous spy mission.
Two of the women show their courage in the field and overcome an unexpected betrayal, while proving themselves helpful in aiding the French resistance.
It has an exciting true story to tell, the interpersonal relations are striking (with Apte the most complex character giving the most curious performance) and the overall acting is quite good, but the dialogue is strident and things get heavy-handed at times. But to its credit, the spy mission is convincingly real, the women are brave and the drama gives us a bitter taste of how cruel war can be.
REVIEWED ON 10/10/2020 GRADE: B