The story of Joan Stanley (Judi Dench), who was exposed as the KGB’s longest-serving British spy.
Stories addressing the WWII era are frequently global representations of the time, but it is this type of film, one with which we see a more narrowly focused story, it allows us to feel the time period and how it affected, in this case, a young woman. We connect with her and understand her decisions, even when we don’t agree with them. She’s more than just a character in a story, she’s a person you feel you get to know and we understand the war and her small world better because of it. Dench, having little screen time, still steals the film with her performance. The non-linear story-telling techniques works beautifully with this film filled with great costuming, set designs, but most importantly, a story worth knowing.
Though the film tells an intriguing story, director Trevor Nunn’s approach is bland while the movie’s pace flirts with tedium throughout. The film almost finds its footing during the flashbacks, as the period details of the 30’s and 40’s are spot on and we are fully immersed in the paranoia and fear felt in Europe at that time. Dench is very good as is Sophie Cookson as the young Joan, an idealistic woman who inadvertently compromises herself to her peril. Still, their fine work is done in the service of a film that never catches fire.