Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle

DVD - 2000
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A ruthless spy trying to get out of Britain with vital information about D-Day falls in love and must make a choice between love and country.
Publisher: Santa Monica, CA : MGM/UA Home Video, c2000
ISBN: 9780792843337
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (112 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in


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Dec 12, 2013

This early 80s thriller is still a very decent Nazi spy caper. It has the distinction of one of Ken Follett’s best plots, fine acting by Canadians Kate Nelligan and Donald Sutherland, a fair script, and competent direction. It never was a top-rank cinematic hit, what with a middling budget and production values, but there’s a great deal to enjoy all the same.

The plot ties in a crippled pilot whose impotence – psychic or otherwise – leaves his attractive wife (Nelligan) bereft with unmet needs. Until she meets a Nazi spy, who is played with suitable menace by Sutherland (a role as sociopath he later reprised in Bertolucci’s ‘1900’). The drama has a conventional yet slick build-up to a very dramatic close, where Nelligan must carry on even after learning about her lover.

The second string of talent is relatively weak, and not quite relieved even by the weighty Ian Bannen, leading the charge against the villain. This secondary plotline barely enters the story, adding some fairly thin, although unneeded in my view, suspense.

Sutherland menacingly brandishes eyes that have never looked quite as steely-blue, along with an extra-long switch-blade – even if its list of victims is a trifle long. The knifings may be a bit low-tech for current tastes, given how each one slides as if into butter while we watch the blood spurt. But in truth, this is really Nelligan’s film, perhaps the best onscreen display of her impressive talents and unusual beauty. In true classic noir form, albeit on the side of the good guys, she is out to relentlessly thwart the man’s success. With Sutherland assisting, Nelligan’s dramatic performance lifts this movie well above the rocky shoals of its meagre budget.

In addition, this caper’s historical backdrop is refreshingly accurate: the Germans were indeed misled to think the Allied landing would be at Pas de Calais, not Normandy, and the ruse involved some elaborate subterfuge. Famed General Patton was brought out of the doghouse of retirement, where he had been atoning for his haughty transgressions, and a ‘notional’ (non-existent) army and air force were contrived to account that faux landing. This last subterfuge is threaded deftly into Follett’s plot, never once stretching credulity. In fact, the Germans had so successfully been duped into an overblown view of Allied strength that, once the landings began in Normandy, their top generals thought they smelled a rat and refused to mobilize until it was too late to stop the onslaught. At least so say the victors. Despite its low budget, this movie is a fair treatment of one of Follett’s best capers (try also his book ‘The Man From St Petersburg’). Its real distinction, however, is in being graced with the very last soundtrack by Miklos Rozsa – perhaps the greatest composer ever to enhance movies with music. His career in soundtracks began in 1937, and earned him considerable fame, including three Academy Awards. But this was only half of his double life, since he was also championed by top-flight ‘classical’ artists, including Heifetz, Piatigorsky and János Starker, to compose a small but outstanding collection of concert works. These glory in his Hungarian roots, while they also pay close attention (to my ear) to aspects of Bela Bartok’s music. True to form, for Eye of the Needle Rozsa conjures up a spare but suitably suspenseful score, adding wonderfully to the proceedings.

Recommended with enthusiasm.

Mar 02, 2011

Eye of the Needle ----
by Ken Follett c - 2000 (DVD), first released in 1981 ----
Watched a VHS as well c - ?

Very Good Show, Most of the movies of the 60's, 70's & 80's where just slow and kind of lame. A slump as it were. ----

The book is Great!


Dec 06, 2009

Sorry, but Sutherland miscast. Not vicious enough.
Read the book. Far superior.

Jul 24, 2009

Good – Eye of the Needle (1981) 112 min. Donald Sutherland plays a German spy during WWII called “The Needle”. You’ll know why from his weapon of choice. This is a wonderful spy film with thrills, chills, suspense and romance to round off the edges to this well-paced story. The fact that the grand scale of WWII was reduced to the actions of two people gave it the dynamics that each one of us as individuals could make a difference.


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