February 22, 2021
Box Office $0.16 million;
$19.98 DVD, $22.98 Blu-ray;
‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, disturbing images, language, and smoking.
Stars Sarah Megan Thomas, Stana Katic, Radhika Apte, Linus Roache, Rossif Sutherland, Samuel Roukin, Andrew Richardson, Laila Robins, Marc Rissmann.
Based on actual events, the compelling A Call to Spy tells the story of Britain’s efforts to recruit and train female spies to infiltrate Europe during World War II.
Sarah Megan Thomas, who also wrote the screenplay, stars as Virginia Hall, an American recruited to set up a spy ring in France because her dreams of diplomatic service are dashed due to her having a wooden leg. Most of the film is told from her point of view and details her mission posing as a journalist in Nazi-occupied territories to build a resistance and funnel information back to her spymasters in London.
The initiative to create a corps of lady spies, which came at the behest of Winston Churchill, is overseen by Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), the overqualified secretary of spy chief Col. Buckmaster (Linus Roache). The real-life Atkins would serve as one of the inspirations for Miss Moneypenny in Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” novels.
Among her other recruits is Noor (Radhika Apte), a Muslim of Indian heritage who was the company’s best wireless operator, which earned her a ticket into the field before she had a firm grasp of the covert aspects of espionage.
In fact, one of the central themes of the film, and more fascinating aspects of it, is how much the British government stumbled around trying to figure out how to conduct clandestine missions and minimize risk to their agents. Numerous mentions are made to large numbers of spies being killed due to shoddy security and just plain laziness when it came to following protocol, not to mention some of the prim-and-proper spymasters simply not having the instincts for recognizing obvious traps.
A Call to Spy is not heavy on action or intrigue, but it is loaded with strong drama and a solid emotional foundation, ably anchored by Thomas, both in her performance and her pen.
The Blu-ray includes a three-and-a-half-minute behind-the-scenes featurette built around interviews with the cast and filmmakers.