As Russia sweeps into Germany at the end of World War II, young Thomas (Schilling) flees for his life, separated from everything he loves. Eventually captured and re-educated, he grows into a cold war spy (Stoppard) stationed in London, where his childhood memories and taste for the freedoms of the West collide with his conditioned obedience.
That no single person can make a difference to a war, and the best we can hope for is to survive, is an honourably unsentimental idea. Reg Traviss’ debut feature attempts to illustrate this philosophy in two conflicts — World War II and the Cold War — but dilutes its own chances for success.
The survival plotline may be more weighty, but it’s simply not as engaging as speaking code and assassination by umbrella, and although the eras are given equal weight, one needs pruning. Get past this, however, and there are several impressive elements; the performances from Ed Stoppard and Bernard Hill are both strong, and the very lean budget has been wisely spent.
A little muddled in places, overly-narrated in others, but Traviss' film is rarely dull, and he has proven himself along with leading man Stoppard as one to keep watching.