Gorky Park: a superior Cold War thriller
Less than the sum of its parts: The Outsiders

Eye of the Needle: vintage trope-ridden thriller

There's a whole genre of alternate history movies about WW II that started to crop up in the 1960s.  These seem to have based on novels and all of them dwelt on just how close the Nazis came to winning.

A bunch became movies and one of them is Eye of the Needle.  As far as thrillers go, the topic is limiting because we know the Germans didn't win.  However, we can get all worked up over who dies (and how they die) trying to stop it, can't we?

Sometimes.  Maybe this film was a sensation when it came out and its plot twists were new and fresh, but from this late date it seemed very much a paint-by-numbers affair.  There was only one genuine surprise in the whole film and a lot of eye-rolling.

To be fair, Donald Sutherland is great as "The Needle," a deep-cover German superspy.  He's got the psychotic nature of the guy down pat, and is a passable fake Englishman.  The 1970s were his decade in a lot of ways, and he displayed quite a bit of range in the roles he took.  The flaws in the film have nothing to do with him.

In fact, some people might not even notice them, but because I'm one of those people who pay attention to details, two moments in particular bothered me.  I won't be specific, but will deal only with generalities.

The first is that dead bodies - especially ones that have sat a while - are obviously dead.  In a cool climate they might have fly swarms, but of course there would be the weakening of bladder and bowel whose stink would announce that something was wrong.  Also, the temperature would be visibly off.  One wouldn't even need to shake them to know they were dead - the stink would give the first clue followed by the cold temperature.  When seconds count, this would save time. 

The second is that British service revolvers weigh quite a bit.  It's not like a match box or a coin that could fall from your pocket and not immediately be missed.  You'd know it the instant it left your possession.

Again, it's got some good moments, but it's one of those films only worth watching once.


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