“The Operative”: Film Review

A highly topical thriller and a genuinely engaging bittersweet romance, this tale of complex loyalties, kinship, and love is based on real-life stories of Mossad operatives.

Diane Kruger is compelling as agent Rachel Goldschmitt in this heart-stopping account based on the novel The English Teacher by Yiftach Reicher Atir, a former Israeli intelligence officer.

A solitary young woman with few ties, Rachel contacts her former handler (Martin Freeman) out of the blue, after a long period of silence. Her call triggers concern back up the command chain, and reveals the fragility of relationships that ultimately have to rely on trust, however tenuous. Some fracture lines run deep, and during long periods undercover, identities and allegiances shift.  

Before her disappearance, Rachel had been assigned to Tehran, posing as an English teacher but ordered to contriving to undermine Iran’s nuclear effort. She meets and slowly falls in love with the man (Cas Anvar) she had been ordered to manipulate, putting his life and fate in jeopardy.  Her empathy, previously dormant, reawakens. And her fown fate now hinges on her handler’s own torn feelings between loyalty to his superiors and his own sense of what is right. 

“The Operative” is heart-stopping story and also unusual in that the spy thriller genre usually has enormous difficulty in accommodating female leads as complex persons in their own right. Too often something gets in the way – unrealistic sexiness, fight scenes that would, if real, result in a smashed skull in the first frame, or straight up comedy.  Genuine moral complexity, dilemmas, quiet heartache? Precious but rare… But they are present in this film, which focuses on the essentials, in almost documenary-style, and steers away from flash aesthetics.  Director Yuval Adler here has opted for substance over form – again against the grain of the standard spy thriller.

This is perhaps why there seems to have been a muted critical response to this film.  But it is a truth often told that critics can be wrong.  KinoSelect has fallen in love with “The Operative”. See the film for yourself – you decide.  Let us know what you think.

“The Operative” is now available on DVD and Digital HD and streaming @ Amazon.

Director and Writer, Yuval Adler
Cast Diane Kruger, Cas Anvar, Martin Freeman.

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