Review by Sean Boelman
At first glance, Declawn Lawn and Adam Patterson’s Rogue Agent looks like it will be just another generic espionage thriller, but there is so much more to it than that. Thanks to an unexpected twist that is somehow true, it ends up being a much more entertaining film than it has any right to be.
It’s hard to explain what Rogue Agent is about without spoiling some of what it has in store. While it is based on a true story, it is unlikely that most viewers will be familiar with the story of subject Robert Freegard, and it is one of the most unbelievably wild true stories that you will have ever seen.
The way that the story unfolds is absolutely captivating. At first, it starts out with a very heavy romance angle before it reveals its hand and turns into the thriller it is. Admittedly, one could argue that the script really hinges on its twist to the point of it being a crutch, but it’s so well-executed that it’s excusable.
Admittedly, as is the case with many of these stranger-than-fiction true stories, the movie gets so caught up in the freshness of the idea that it doesn’t really use it to say much of anything. There are many potential angles that the filmmakers could have taken to give the story some sort of commentary, but they choose to be very straightforward about it.
The most effective portion of this film is the character development. The central character is not meant to be particularly likable, but he is duplicitously charming. James Norton’s extraordinary performance is one of the main things that really allows the movie to be as compelling as it is.
Gemma Arterton is also good in her role, but she is given much less to do than Norton, causing him to steal the spotlight from her more often than not. The other person in the cast who gives a notable performance is Marisa Abela (Industry), whose turn is subtly harrowing in an unexpected way.
From a visual standpoint, the film is pretty straightforward, but in a way that is sleek. That said, the periodization is a bit on the messy side. It feels like a movie that could be set a few decades ago even though the story took place in the 2000s. It’s perhaps trying to go for a retro vibe, but it doesn’t go all-in enough with it to work.
Rogue Agent is a compelling little movie thanks to fantastic story and acting. Its storytelling may not be completely even, but the story itself is so freaking interesting that it makes up for any of its shortcomings.
Rogue Agent hits theaters and AMC+ on August 12.