29 October 2020 | carol_laidlaw
Watchable despite uneven script
The main character in this film, Peter Hubbard (played by Michael Billington), is a KGB 'sleeper' agent who has been living in Los Angeles under an assumed identity for many years. His KGB handlers want him to steal computer microchips, in an operation that will inevitably expose his cover, and then return to Moscow. He believes he won't reach Moscow alive and so aims to defect, offering the CIA information about KGB operations as a bargaining point. He then has to play both sides in order to survive.
This film has a complex but not too complex plot, an unpredictable ending, exciting action scenes in all the right places, and more than competent acting. So I had to ask myself, why didn't I find it more engaging? One flaw is that the information about what happened to Peter Hubbard's Russian family would have worked better if it was revealed much earlier in the course of the story. A bigger problem is that not enough time is given to presenting the lead characters or giving them any background, so it is hard to relate to them or root for them while they are navigating the dangerous situation they are in. A particular flaw is that we are given no information at all about the background of Adele Martin, Peter Hubbard's American girl friend, so it's not easy to relate to why she agrees to stay with him, and run around with him dodging the KGB and the CIA after he tells her he is a Russian spy. For that plot point to work, there would have to be some indication that she already suspected him but there is none. Presumably we are meant to believe she is too deeply in love with him to dump him for his betrayal, but for me the notion that "love conquers all" never quite works, and it doesn't work well enough here..
The script, too, is a little uneven. In a lot of the scenes, the sparse dialogue is exactly right. In others, it isn't quite enough to drive the plot or make the characters relatable. But there is nothing wrong with the quality of the acting.. Michael Billington is perfectly suited to the "action hero" lead role. Sally Waterman (claim to fame: she was Major "Hot Lips" Hoolihan in M.A.S.H.) is good as a hard-nosed, wise-cracking CIA agent.
This is worth a watch if you like spy films - and if you can find it. It seems to have only ever been released on VHS; I've seen the odd copy appear on ebay. Myself, I got it on DVD from a company that specialises in copying old and rare films for film collectors.