Beefing on Hitchcock
Three British agents are sent on an undercover mission to assassinate an enemy spy, but when they kill the wrong man, there is internal conflict between patriotism and conscience.
Despite a rather simple plot and what might be one of Hitchcock's darker stories, Secret Agent might just as well been called "Witty Banter: The Movie" I can't recall another film by Hitrchcock with even half as much banter... but that's not a bad thing. It's what keeps this movie really watchable.
The story got off to a relatively slow start, at times being a tad vague on what the plot was really going to be, but after a while it was clear that there wasn't all that much of one. A guy gets sent on a secret mission, along with a beautiful female spy posing as his wife, and a trained killer called The General. A love triangle forms between the man, woman and a dashing young man staying at the same hotel. Pretty standard spy movie fare, and not all that outstanding. Even when they discovered the man they had targeted and killed wasn't the man they were actually looking for, the movie really wasn't all that intriguing.
The best part of the film was the actually build-up to the aforementioned murder, even though you don't know by that point that it was misguided. As far as you know, the poor little old man was truly the target, so no big deal... but the cutting back and forth between locations, along with the reactions from the dog, made the entire scene incredibly eerie and unsettling.
After the error is discovered, two of the three secret agents have a hard time coming to terms with the mistake they've made in murdering this elderly gentleman who had done no wrong. The woman, upset about the ongoing search for the spy, runs off with the other man and only just before the other agents discover that he was the actual target all along. Chase ensues, a confrontation...
The witty banter between the characters was the only truly entertaining part of Secret Agent. At times it almost felt a bit out of place, contrasted with the serious tone of the story, but it works. It works really well actually, because that was the only thing keeping the movie from just being too dark and too serious.
I'd recommend this one anyways, because in the end, it's a fairly decent film with terrific dialogue and on-screen chemistry. Peter Lorre is fantastic as always, and many times he simply steals the scenes. While not as good as The 39 Steps, it's still a good spy movie and needs a decent remaster.