The Innocent Review

Image for The Innocent

Reluctantly turning into a spy during the Second World War, an Englishman returns to Berlin years later just as The Wall is being destroyed. Via flashbacks we also see his days as a spy in the CIA., being forced to commit murder and also having an affair with a mysterious young woman.


There's something perverse about casting the ineffably Welsh Hopkins as a braggart American and clean-cut Yank Scott to play a timid Englishman, especially when the script calls for both characters to do exaggerated imitations of the way the other speaks. It's the callow Scott who comes off better, while Hopkins uses the same bad accent he employed in Desperate Hours.

Sadly, The Innocent, adapted by Ian McEwan from his own novel, leaves you enough free time to ponder such frivolities as it plods through its steadfastly ungripping story. It opens with the Berlin Wall coming down and Leonard (Scott) searching the city for the love he lost while there in 1955 helping the Allies to tap commie phone lines. In flashback, Leonard is shoved through the espionage business by his American boss (Hopkins) and has an affair with mysterious Maria (Rossellini). It all ends in tears with Leonard staggering around with a dismembered corpse in his suitcases just as the spy scheme is collapsing and his love life is taking a turn for the worst.

Sharing the same mix of the grotesque and the banal as previous McEwan movies The Comfort Of Strangers and The Cement Garden, this is sunk by unimaginative direction and stilted acting (only Rossellini is at her best) and sorely misses the black wit and nightmare feel required by the pretty decent script. An interesting idea and characters are otherwise wasted on a thudding succession of obvious moments which topple over into bathos well before the reunion of Germany and the story's lovers.

You would think that if a book is adapted to film by its own author, it would be successful, sadly this doesn't seem to be the case. Where McEwan's book was engaging, the film plods along never achieving the same pace. Hopkin's dreadful accent distract from his acting whilst Campbell comes across as dislikeable.