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‘Diary of a Spy’ (review)

Diary of a Spy is an espionage thriller from director Adam Christian Clark that purports to be based on true, but confidential, whatever the heck that means, events.

Now I am a sucker for anything in the spy film genre, so when the chance to review this film came up, I jumped at it.

Too many spy films these days are full of unstoppable agents, who invariably are burned out cast offs who return to exact their revenge on the superiors who wronged them.

To see a movie based on a cat and mouse game between officer and agent, with a female lead, seemed like just the thing to break myself, and the genre, out of its rut.

The movie is the story of Anna,  played by Tamara Taylor, a down on her luck intelligence officer whose last mission in Saudi Arabia went horribly wrong causing the deaths of her team and leading to her professional disgrace.

She’s given one last chance to redeem herself, which of course she jumps at.

Her mission is to seduce an asset with connections to the Saudi royal family, particularly MBS, whose name they actually use,  a bold move if you ask me,and gain insight into their thinking.

Her target, Camden, played by Reece Noi, is a tutor who has long worked for the House of Saud. He’s a bit socially awkward, which is what makes him a target to begin with. He’s supposed to be an easy target for Anna…

The shy young man who connects with the broken alcoholic officer, and the recruitment quickly develops into a real romance.

A bit too quickly for my taste, for if this young man is so inept with women, how on earth does he figure out how to have a relationship so quickly?

The movie is also shot almost entirely in darkness. I pushed the brightness up all the way thinking perhaps it was my screen, but I think it was a choice by the director to say see, the world of intelligence is dark.

There are so many spy film cliches in this movie, the boss who appears out of nowhere, the driver who refuses to speak and takes our protagonist to an underground meeting with a boss who only identifies herself as a number, that you almost expect to hear “Oh my god, that’s Jason Bourne” at some point.

I am not sure they knew what type of movie they wanted to make here. A redemption story? A love story? A thriller? At times it seems like all of them, and a love story as well. It’s a bit of a muddled mess.

I did enjoy the work of Ms Taylor, she really does a fantastic job of portraying that world weariness of someone who has seen too much and just wants to move on with her life, but can’t because her professional existence has up to this point all been a lie.

Now if that is the story they had told, you might have had something really original.

But sadly, they didn’t.

Did I mention the film says it is based on a true story?

Which for this movie fan is a bit of a red flag. You see, not only am I a big fan of the spy genre, I have had the pleasure to make acquaintances with real life intelligence officers. Officers one and all who said there was never any such loss of life of any US intelligence personnel.

So suspend that disbelief folks.  A whole lot.

Skip this and watch The Spy Who Came in From the Cold instead.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by David Grove, Churchill Viste,
Jordan Michaud-Scorza 

Written and Directed by Adam Christian Clark 
Starring Madeline Zima, Tamara Taylor, Susan Sullivan, Fred Melamed,
Casey Adams, Jon Lindstrom, Reece Noir, Dylan Silver 

 

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