REVIEW: ‘A Call to Spy’ is sadly underwhelming

This film features an amazing true story about brave individuals who volunteered to do daring work to hold back the German war machine in some of the darkest days for Europe in World War II.

One just wishes the movie was less dull.

The picture introduces British intelligence officer Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), who recruits candidates to help the French resistance communicate with each other and plan sabotage efforts. To do so, Atkins recruits Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas) and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte).

Atkins has the two young women go to two sections of France, with Khan focusing on radio communications and Hall planning sabotage efforts. Doing so isn’t easy, though, with Germany’s occupation forces everywhere.

“A Call” is a paradoxical film in that it feels both too long and too short. Despite the strong subject matter, the movie is a bit of a chore to get through as it doesn’t feel like it’s really building to something over the two hour runtime.

The reason it feels this was, though, is because it tries to combine the stories of all these women in a single film. All things considered, “A Call To Spy” may have been stronger as a mini-series, where each character has more time to shine and their efforts on the war effort are more thoroughly explored.

Instead, the film feels rather convoluted, with the three character arcs largely removed from each other. As a result, momentum can be lost when switching to what a different character is up to.

CallToSPBLog
Courtesy IFC Films.

On top of this, the movie just comes across as mostly bland. There’s little in terms of excitement or edge of your seat moments. As previously stated, the film doesn’t have a specific plot or plan that it’s really setting up for in the climax, so despite having an underlying tension from being in an occupied country, that tension never builds as the finale approaches.

The performances seem hit or miss with “A Call to Spy.” Espionage of course requires a level of subtlety, but the characters feel too restrained here. While the performances aren’t weak as a whole, there is a lack of passion at times, which lessens the film’s attempt at being a spy thriller.

Credit does have to go to the filmmakers, though, for properly recreating the era this film took place in. Occupied France is brought to life convincingly here, thanks to strong production, set and costume designing. The atmosphere of danger lurking around every corner is nicely created.

History buffs, especially those into the World War II era, should find “A Call to Spy” somewhat satisfying and general audiences can certainly admire the stories of these brave women. However, the film just isn’t put together well enough to fully draw one in. 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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