57 user 28 critic

Eye of the Needle (1981)

A ruthless German spy, trying to get out of Britain with vital information about D-Day, must spend time with a young woman and her crippled husband.


Richard Marquand


Ken Follett (based on the novel by), Stanley Mann (screenplay)

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1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Donald Sutherland ... Faber
Stephen MacKenna ... Lieutenant
Philip Martin Brown ... Billy Parkin
Kate Nelligan ... Lucy
Christopher Cazenove ... David
George Belbin George Belbin ... Lucy's Father
Faith Brook ... Lucy's Mother
Barbara Graley Barbara Graley ... David's Mother
George Lee George Lee ... Constable
Arthur Lovegrove Arthur Lovegrove ... Peterson
Colin Rix Colin Rix ... Oliphant
Barbara Ewing Barbara Ewing ... Mrs. Garden
Chris Jenkinson Chris Jenkinson ... German SS Officer
William Merrow William Merrow ... German Radio Operator
Patrick Connor Patrick Connor ... Inspector Harris


A German spy carrying information that will reveal the target of Operation Overlord becomes involved with the wife of a crippled man on an isolated island off the Scottish coast while he waits to be picked up. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

spy | german | woman | love | u boat | See All (89) »


To love a stranger is easy... To kill a lover is not. See more »


Romance | Thriller | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:





English | German

Release Date:

24 July 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El ojo de la aguja See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Kings Road Entertainment See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Black and White (archive footage)| Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Donald Surherland's German dialog is noticeably dubbed by a voice actor. See more »


As Inspector Godliman is speaking to other officials at a harbor in Scotland, modern radar antennas can be seen on some of the boats behind them. See more »


Faber: The war has come down to the two of us.
See more »


For He's a Jolly Good Fellow
Sung by wedding guests with modified lyrics ("For They Are Jolly Good Fellows")
See more »

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User Reviews

The war has come down to the two of us.
1 November 2004 | by Andy (film-critic)See all my reviews

So, at first I had trouble deciding if this film was great or just another war film that would be forgotten about as the years progressed. It was a tough decision that required a day of thought. There were definitely scenes in this film that would embarrass even the most novice movie goer, yet there is something about the story and the humanistic approach to a non-human element that seeps from this film's pores. The scene that stands out the most in my mind is when Sutherland is running to the rain to catch Lucy. You can obviously tell that he is on a sound stage and water is being thrown in his face. His acting and the way that that particular scene was set up was appalling. It made me laugh instead of feel any sort of suspense or fear. It forced credibility for Sutherland's character right out the door. There were several other scenes that just didn't seem to fit in this film that made you question the theatrical release of this film or if it was a straight-to-television production. If you can get through these few lapses in the director's train of thought, then you will be able to see the powerful story that lies within.

When I first saw the box to this film I didn't know what to expect. To my utter enjoyment, Eye of the Needle is one of those gems hiding in a mud puddle. After you wipe it off (look away from the DVD cover), you will begin to see the beauty of this film. As we begin our story, we see Sutherland as a normal person, but as the film advances, our idea and interpretation of his character blows our mind. When most war films simply believe in keeping you in your theater seats by showing graphic images of battle and chaos, this film goes in the completely other direction. This is a story between two people and the small battle that they fight for their beliefs. I mentioned earlier that I felt this was a very humanistic film. The reason for that statement is because we witness the human element to war. Billy is the perfect example of a man who has lost a portion of his life, yet is too depressed to see the happiness in front of him. Normally in war films this comes late story, but in Eye of the Needle it is shown right up front. Next, we hardly ever are given a very human side to the villain in these stories. Normally, they kill without remorse, but again, not in this film. What we witness are two humans caught between a hard place with nobody else to turn to.

While war is being raged overseas with thousands of troopers, it is impressive to see stories like this that revolve around just two people. These two people can have the same effect on the war as a brigade of soldiers. I never saw their reaction to each other coming. I wasn't expecting a message in this film. I brief history lesson about the day to day activities surrounding this dark cloud of our world's history. Also, I wasn't expecting to see such powerful acting from Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan. Together they created more sparks on screen than most duos today.

What they create is better and more realistic than most Hollywood jargon.

It is impressive to see this in a war film. I cannot stress that enough. This film surprised me and I am normally not a huge war fan. I think the reason that it stood out was because director Richard Marquand develops two amazing characters and places them in a war torn country, only to uproot them again into a place of beauty and nature. We go from one spectrum to the next with Marquand and it works. Ken Follett, who wrote the novel that this film is based, has done a great job of taking a world that is huge and bringing it down to just these two characters. It is not often that you see that in a war film, especially one made in 1981.

Overall, I flip-flopped my decision all around until I finally made a choice. This film was amazing. I can look past the low-budgeted scenes that make this film dated in the 80s, and see the amazing truth behind the characters and story. This is one of the most impressive stories that I have seen come from Hollywood. I could literally watch this film again and probably catch more that I missed the first time. This isn't your average spy film; this is instead a film about humans and the comfort we need in our lives. Also, I must end with this note, if any villain (without saying who) can use his trademark kill six times in forty minutes, you should realize that this film is going to be a great ride.

Grade: **** out of *****

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