Richard Marquand (director)
BFI Film (studio)
24 September 2018 (released)
24 September 2018
In this gripping 1981 thriller, Donald Sutherland (currently billionaire industrialist J. Paul Getty in the equally gripping BBC drama TRUST) plays a German spy who finds himself stranded on a remote Scottish island during WW2.
Tension and drama unfold from the off and never let up throughout the entire movie. Henry Faber (D. Sutherland) is not the suavely dressed gentleman he pretends to be, in fact he is a cold and calculating German Nazi spy who won’t shy away from killing anyone who stands in the way of his mission. His preferred method of killing: stabbing people with a thin stiletto blade (hence his nickname The Needle). His mission: to deliver vital information about the upcoming D-Day invasion to Hitler.
After his well-meaning landlady Mrs. Garden (Barbara Ewing) unassumingly enters Faber’s room (she seem to be rather taken by the charming man and prepared meat pie especially for him) her enthusiasm changes when she catches him in the act of a secret radio transmission – spoken in German. After his reassurance that the message is nothing to worry about fails and the woman becomes increasingly hysterical, Faber sees no other choice than to make use of his infamous blade… and continues with his radio transmission while the lifeless body of Mrs. Garden lies slumped on the floor. Over the next half an hour or so, the body count rises and Faber only narrowly manages to flee from the pursuing British Intelligence officers by boarding a train. During the train journey his stiletto blade calls for yet another victim before he can escape. Desperately trying to make his way back to Germany he manages to take some photos of a military airport where the planes turn out to be camouflaged. Film in his pocket he is ready to continue the journey when suddenly, two intelligence officers who followed him via a small vessel lay in wait for him. Needless to say they won’t be succeeding and both end up dead while Faber makes off using the chartered boat as means of transport. That came in handy!
In an earlier subplot (which later merges with the film’s main plot), newlyweds Lucy and David Rose (Kate Nelligan and Christopher Cazenove) celebrate the start of their honeymoon by briefly stopping their car on the roadside and downing a bottle of champagne. Intoxicated and in high spirits, David continues to drive on and steps a little too hard on the gas pedal… and within minutes a collision with a truck occurs. Four years have passed since the tragic accident and the couple now live on remote Storm Island in Scotland. David lost both legs in the accident and is now a wheelchair-bound, bitter and cynical man. The couple have a son, however – a four-year old boy. Since the self-sacrificing Lucy continuously fails to re-kindle any kind of passion in her embittered husband she showers all her love onto the boy.
Faber’s fate and the Rose’s fate intertwine when the former finds himself stranded on Storm Island after a particularly severe gale and Lucy looks after the exhausted stranger. Despite his usually emotionless demeanour Faber finds himself taken by the attractive woman who is constantly rejected by her husband. Soon Faber and Lucy enjoy a passionate and secret affair… and if David has his suspicions, then either he doesn’t let on or simply doesn’t care. However, if there is one suspicion David cares about then it’s his gut feeling that Faber is not what he pretends to be: an aspiring writer. During a joint outing in David’s car they visit family friend Tom (Alex McGrindle) – a booze-loving shepherd and pretty much the only soul on the island apart from the Rose’s. When Tom fails to reply to David’s calls Faber offers to look for him in the house. There, he not only discovers Tom in a drunken stupor but a radio transmitter! This unexpected discovery makes for excellent news as far as Faber is concerned as it means he might be able to transmit his secret messages to the Germans after all. Unfortunately for Faber, David had discovered a role of film in his pocket and is now accusing him of being a spy working for the enemy. In the ensuing fight Faber throws the handicapped David over the cliff and calmly returns to the Rose’s house in David’s car – explaining to Lucy that David and Tom got drunk together and he couldn’t move him into the car. Another night of passion between Faber and Lucy follows. The next morning Lucy and her little boy enjoy a walk along the cliffs when suddenly, Lucy discovers David’s lifeless body floating in the water. Panic-stricken she returns to her house but Faber is not there. When he returns a short time later he lies to her that he’s just spoken to David back in Tom’s house… and that he’s still there recovering from his hangover. Faber has no idea of Lucy’s discovery. She comes to realize that Faber is not only a liar but also the murderer of David. Desperately she hatches a plan to save herself… and Britain…
Gripping story aside, this film works on every level not least thanks to the incredible acting talents of Sutherland and Nelligan, as well as their convincing on-screen chemistry.
EYE OF THE NEEDLE is a gem among spy thrillers and deserves this new Dual-Format release including Bonus Features such as info booklet, trailer, interview with D. Sutherland from 1987, alternative ending and three wartime propaganda shorts.