Cinema Station

A Forgotten Masterpiece | July 13, 2010

Eye of the Needle

Through conversation, Gus and I stumbled on Eye of the Needle, a 1981 movie starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan.  He’d seen it; I hadn’t. He said it was Donald Sutherland’s best performance. He wasn’t wrong.

Eye of the Needle is a masterpiece, a forgotten brilliant piece of work.  It’s about a German spy nicknamed the Needle, played by Sutherland.  He’s hiding out, doing his job in England, when he gathers some crucial information, crucial enough to decide the fate of World War II.

Meanwhile, a British woman played by Nelligan gets into a reckless car crash with her new husband, an RAF pilot played by Christopher Cazenove.  The movie picks up on Storm Island, a small, desolate rock off the coast of Britain where Nelligan lives with her handicapped husband and child.  He is a bitter drunk, negligent of her love and needs.

Through a series of events, Sutherland’s spy is shipwrecked on Storm Island in his attempt to return to Germany.  That is where I will leave the plot.

The first part of the film sets up Sutherland as such a villain, stabbing people with no remorse, a cold killing Nazi. His humanity seems inconceivable and then through a combo effort from the actor, director Richard Marquand, and the screenwriters, he transforms into something else altogether.

It is this transformation that marks the movie’s brilliance, that and Nelligan’s sincere performance.  Marquand, as Gus said it best a “Hollywood professional”, directs the movie into a thriller not complicated through twists but emotions.

Funny how fresh it is to see a story where characters act in ways you might not predict, where our feelings about them conflict, where the story and the characters shine above the movie itself.

-TM

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