During the first world war, novelist Edgar Brodie is sent to Switzerland by the Intelligence Service. He has to kill a German agent. During the mission he meets a fake general first and then Elsa Carrington who helps him in his duty. Written by
Claudio Sandrini <email@example.com>
When you first see the hotel bathroom, the toilet roll is held on its holder with the end hanging at the back of the toilet roll hanger. When 'The General', however, goes on a strop for not having a wife 'issued' to him, the toilet roll is hanging with the end on the front of the toilet roll holder. See more »
While not one of Hitchcock's most well-known films, "Secret Agent" is one of his most creative. His version of the world of espionage is quite different from, and much richer than, the usual James Bond-type spy story. This movie is also distinguished by large doses of good humor and by some creative uses of the story's setting in Switzerland.
John Gielgud plays Ashenden, an English spy in World War I. He is assigned to go to Switzerland, determine the identity of an important German agent, and then stop the enemy agent before he can carry out his mission. Gielgud has two assistants: a young agent posing as his wife (Madeleine Carroll) and an eccentric assassin (Peter Lorre). What makes the film interesting is that Gielgud's character is not at all the stereotyped dashing movie spy, and he has a keen sense of the human cost involved in what he is doing. By contrast, his two assistants are both excited about the mission, and look forward to the game of tracking down and eliminating their quarry. As the story proceeds, it is the reluctant but responsible Ashenden who persists in continuing the mission in spite of some bad surprises, while the once enthusiastic "Mrs. Ashenden" quickly begins to lose heart when she realizes what espionage is really all about. At the same time, the twists and turns of the mission itself lead to some interesting and tense developments. This is all handled with Hitchcock's usual mastery of suspense and irony.
Hitchcock also makes full use of the setting, and typical Swiss themes like mountain climbing, chocolate, and folk dancing are all part of the plot. Hitchcock makes use of these elements in a natural way, not forcing them into the plot, and the whole production is nicely crafted. There are some excellent scenes, including a scene in an old country church that combines humor and suspense, and a chase through a chocolate factory.
Because its hero has a reluctance about his mission that we do not expect in our spy heroes, "Secret Agent" has never been one of Hitchcock's most popular films. And the story does have some odd aspects to it. But this is quite a good film, worthy of attention, and one that shows many aspects of the great director's skill and imagination.
25 of 25 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?