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London of the late 19th century is a haven for political exiles of all sorts - refugees, partisans, anarchists. Verloc has made his living spying for the Russian government, an agent provocateur of sorts, while simultaneously providing information to the London police, specifically Chief Inspector Heat. When the new Russian ambassador demands he prove his worth or lose his salary, Verloc sets off a tragic chain of events that involves his pretty young wife Winnie, her intellectually disabled brother Stevie, and a figure called the Professor, whose fascination with explosives and destruction makes him the person to call on when Verloc needs a bomb.Written by
Gary Dickerson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Anyone looking for some exciting tale along the lines of the Bourne trilogy in a film named The Secret Agent is going to be disappointed.
What you have here is a dark and deep intellectual exercise in the actions of spies, anarchists, agent provocateurs, and the like in 19th Century England.
While Bob Hoskins (Unleashed, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) leads the cast, it is truly an ensemble film.
Hoskins is a man playing all sides. He is an anarchist, but in the employ of the Russians, and under the thumb of a local police inspector (Jim Broadbent). His wife (Patricia Arquette) only married him to gain protection for disabled brother (Christian Bale). When the Russian boss (Eddie Izzard) puts the pressure on, he has to act and he manages to kill the brother. Everything falls apart at that point, and it is where the film really gets interesting. So, if you bail before that, you miss it all.
One of the most interesting things in the film was his actions after his wife found out that her brother was killed. She is leaving, and he orders her to stay. He is stuffing his face while "consoling" her and sits on the couch. He then tells her, "I know what you need. Come over here." I hope this is not a reflection of the attitude of men towards women in this period, but I am afraid that it probably is. Anyway, it was what she needed, but not in the way he imagined.
Things do not end well in this film. There is a good performance by Gérard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac, The Man in the Iron Mask) towards the end, and a great performance by Robin Williams throughout.
They must really like Conrad's story, as it has been done on TV a couple of times before this film. It is worth your time.
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