1976:- Ruth Gilmartin visits her mother Sally in rural Cambridgeshire and is amazed to learn she is a Russian refugee born Eva Delectorskaya, recruited as a spy by the British in 1939. After narrowly escaping death in the Netherlands Eva is sent to America to seduce the married Mason Harding, an adviser to the president, to find out if the Americans intend joining the war, a mission she successfully accomplishes. However a second assignment is to supply a map to American agents supposedly outlining a planned German invasion of the States but Eva spots errors in the map, informing her spy master and lover Lucas Romer and other colleagues. Though the map fools the president Eva survives an attempt to kill her and, as her fellow spies die one by one,is convinced she was betrayed. Even in the 1970s, years after the event, she believes her life is in danger and shocks Ruth by buying a shotgun for her protection. She gets Ruth to contact Romer, posing as a journalist interested in wartime ...Written by
A harrowing, nail-biting tale by a master story-teller
This gripping film was brilliantly directed by Edward Hall, who has previously directed six episodes of the TV series SPOOKS but is otherwise little known. I cannot imagine that now he will be little known for much longer. The film is from a screenplay by William Boyd, an adaptation of whose novel (by himself), ANY HUMAN HEART (2010, see my review) was truly spectacular. I would say that William Boyd is now one of the hottest things British television has got to offer to the world. Hayley Atwell does a truly brilliant job of playing the lead in this new film, just as she excelled in Boyd's earlier series. This film is a new variation of the British traitor theme, and concerns a devilishly cunning double agent. Atwell plays the young Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian émigré fluent in English and other languages, who is recruited as a British spy in 1939. The film begins in the current day, when Eva is played with steely conviction by the indomitable Charlotte Rampling, who was for so long every thinking man's choice of the ideal tea partner, if crumpet was to be served. Really, I do think Charlotte Rampling could convince anyone of anything. If she had not been an actress she could have made a fortune as a salesman. Even now that the film is over, I still believe she is out there with her sawn-off shotgun ready to protect herself from the people who want her dead because she knows too much. The screenplay, as is to be expected, coming as it does from Boyd, is sensationally well crafted. All the cast are excellent. Rufus Sewell has matured into a most interesting actor who has gone beyond youth into becoming a real man at last. For too long he was the thrusting young man. Now he can get all those good solid grown-up parts which suit him so much better. He does a wonderful job here as the spy master Lucas Romer, who in the present day scenes is played with his usual powerful presence by Michael Gambon. Young Michelle Dockery plays the daughter of Rampling. We can see her character visibly maturing on the screen, as the action brings out that rare thing in a movie, true character development. At the beginning of the film, when Rampling announces to her daughter that her name is Eva Delectorskaya, Dockery thinks she must be getting Aldzheimers or something, and says: 'Nonsense, you're my mother. Your name is Sally Gilmartin', as if she were a nurse calming a patient. But gradually the truth begins to dawn, and it is not long before they enter into a double game as a team to flush out the threat to Rampling's life. There are many heart-stopping moments. But the central glowing presence on the screen which makes everything work so convincingly is Hayley Atwell. She was named by her parents after Hayley Mills, as so many thousands of British girls were. (Hayley was only a surname until Hayley Mills was given it as a first name, her mother being Mary Hayley-Bell. William Hayley, 1745-1820, their ancestor, was a distinguished minor English poet of the 19th century and a close friend of William Blake.) So maybe talent is hereditary, passing down through anyone named Hayley. Just a thought! The seamless interweaving between past and present in this film (well, I say film, it was shown in two episodes on the BBC and is thus technically a mini-series, I suppose, though with a running time altogether of only 3 hours) is done with considerable finesse. Everything seems to have come together to make RECKLESS a total success, and that splendid achievement was anything but reckless. More, please!
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