Eye of the Needle1981

Director: Richard Marquand
Stars: Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, Stephen MacKenna, Philip Martin Brown, Christopher Cazenove
Genre: Romance, Thriller, War
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 112 minutes

Eye of the Needle is a superbly effective World War II spy thriller from the Ken Follett bestseller of the same name. Donald Sutherland is "the Needle," a German spy in England bearing critical information on Allied invasion plans that he must deliver personally to the F├╝hrer. He's so named because of his preferred method of assassination, the stiletto. As played by Sutherland, he's a coldly calculating psychopath, emotionlessly focused on the task at hand, whether the task is to signal a U-boat or to gut a witness to avoid exposure. On his way back to Germany, a fierce storm strands him on an island, occupied only by a woman (Kate Nelligan), her disabled husband, and the lighthouse keeper. A romance of sorts develops between the woman and the spy, due to an estrangement of affections between the woman and her husband, whose accident has rendered him emotionally crippled as well. Much of the suspense of the latter half of the movie has to do with this romance, and the way it begins to reveal the Needle's motivations and whether there's a sympathetic personality buried somewhere inside him, though he remains by-and-large tantalizingly enigmatic. Early on, we discover that he may not enjoy the hand life has dealt him. When a courier asks him about the way he lives, and "What else can one do?" the Needle answers, "One can just stop." But as the film makes amply clear in its final third, one doesn't stop, does one? The direction by Richard Marquand (known primarily for thrillers such as this one and Jagged Edge, although he also did Return of the Jedi) is crisply done, boasting numerous suspenseful episodes, including a deadly encounter between Sutherland and the disabled husband, which is jaw-droppingly surprising. --Jim Gay

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