Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

"The Secret Agent"

Thanks to Henry Osier, we were introduced to this 1996 production based upon Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel. It has a remarkable cast, featuring Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette, Gerard Depardieu, Jim Broadbent, Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard, and a very young Christian Bale.


“The Secret Agent” is one of the earlier novels of intrigue, and set a thematic path that would later be followed by such authors as Grahame Greene, Somerset Maugham, and John LeCarre. Conrad is one of the first writers to depict the grim realities of espionage, and how those who work in it can be forced into a vice between the conflicting demands of their paymasters, their families, and the society they move in.


Hoskins (who also produced) plays Verloc, an immigrant to England who supplements his shop in Soho and his life with his young wife (Arquette) by informing on the activities of expatriate Socialists and Anarchists to the Russian embassy, and also to the Chief Inspector of the Scotland Yard Special Branch (Broadbent).  Things start to go badly wrong for him when the new Russian Ambassador (Izzard) demands that he go further and provoke incidents so that the members of the revolutionary community can be deported back to their home countries, where they will be “safely” killed or executed.


Hoskins plays the amoral and cowardly Verloc with the skill we’ve come to expect from him, and is ably supported by the other players, including Williams in an unusual role for him, the monstrous Professor, whose only principle in life is Death, and who’s goal is the creation of “the perfect detonator” for the infernal machines he provides to all comers.


A fascinating and very riveting production. Only suitable for adults due to the subtlety of the story, and a few grisly images.

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