The Secret Agent (1996)

R   |    |  Drama, Thriller

The Secret Agent (1996) Poster

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 ... See full summary »


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11 April 2006 | PenOutOfTime
| A very good film, if not quite a masterpiece....
A very good film, if not quite a masterpiece....

This film aims very high, with every intention of obtaining stratospheric heights, but time restraints do not allow this film to fulfill it's full potential, and I think that the obvious effort put into the film by all involved, can produce a slight sense of disappointment in those who appreciate the film, and only increases the alienation of those who are not attuned to the themes of the film.

Essentially, I think that the film's greatest flaw is that it is excessively abbreviated, and most characters are not able to be fully developed. This is partly the fault of Joseph Conrad, who wrote complicated and intricately plotted books, but the slow pace which adds greatly (and appropriately) to the atmosphere of the film, also prevents the insertion of additional scenes to develop the characters. This film could have been expanded into a masterpiece, but it would have been very long. To appreciate the film, one must grasp the nature of a large number of characters, and often there are only abbreviated cues to show the way. Thus a story about betrayals small and great, becomes a film of great betrayals.

It appears that opinions are very polarized on the acting in this film, but I found most of the performances engaging, with the strong exception of Robin Williams, who seems to be mainly engaged in an attempt to break out of his comedy roles with the aid of a phony scowl. I should note that others disagree with my opinion of Robin Williams in this case however.

I found the soundtrack (by Philip Glass) to be outstanding, with a traditional flavor as is appropriate to the film, but quite original.

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