Saturday, December 13, 2014

Circle of Deception

A worthwhile little World War II spy movie is showing up on FXM Retro: Circle of Deception, tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM.

The movie starts off in London in the spring of 1946, as a parade honoring the soldiers who served in the recent war are marching down the street receiving their well-earned heroes' welcome. Up in one of the apartments overlooking the street are a bunch of people who served as well, but not in a combat capacity. Lucy Bowen (Suzy Parker) served under Captain Rawson (Harry Andrews), and it's fairly quickly made clear that Lucy has some issues regarding the time she served with Rawson. Rawon, for his part, doesn't seem concerned at all: there was a war on, after all, and the Nazis would have done stuff far worse than anything Rawson or the rest of the British signed off on. Specifically, Lucy wnoders what happened to one Captain Raine, who was in France the last she knew. Rawson has Raine's post-war address, which is a seedy bar in Tangier, Morocco. Cut to an establishing shot of Tangier....

Lucy goes to the address given, and at first the proprietor of the bar claims that he hasn't seen Raine in some time, as he goes in an out keeping odd hours. Soon enough, though, it's revealed that Raine is in fact there, and he has good reasons for not wanting to see Lucy. They talk a bit, and we're about to get a flashback to what happened with Raine, Rawson, and Lucy that made Raine so sour on Lucy.

But first, we get a flashback to occupied France, in 1944. In the town of Marignan somewhere not far from the English Channel, the Maquis are operating as apparently they were in lots of little French towns. The Nazis are onto this particular Maquis cell, however, and capture most of the members of the cell. This is bad news for the English, who were looking to use the Marignan-area Maquis as a diversion from where the real invasion of Normandy was going to be. They still want to do that, but to do so, they're going to have to get new instructions to the Maquis, which involves sending a British spy. Or at least, that's what they want the Nazis to think they're doing. More specifically, the English want the Nazis to find the British spy and break him through torture so that he'll reveal the information that Marignan is important when, unbeknownst to the spy, Marignan is only a diversion. But if the spy believes in the importance of Marignan, so will the Nazis, and they'll move some troops away from the areas that are really important to the allies. (They couldn't use a dead body for this purpose, because they had already done that in Operation Mincemeat, as told more or less in The Man Who Never Was.) But, paradoxically, the British need a spy who is likely to break when of course they've been training their spies not to break for obvious reasons. Raine's psychological profile suggests that he's the right man for the job.

Raine gets parachuted into France and fairly quickly gets caught by the Gestapo, who unsurprisingly begin to apply totrure on him. Exactly what happens next forms the climax of the film, so I won't give it away, other than to say what because the movie is told in flashback, we know Raine is going to survive the war. As for the movie as a whole, the acting is nothing special, but the story makes this movie. Parker is relatively wooden, while Andrews does a reasonably good job of coming off like a jerk who rationalies he has to be like this because of the war. The torture scenes are surprisingly brutal, depicting several rounds of waterboarding and attaching electrodes to Raine's ears (I'd assume in real life the Nazis would have attached the electrodes to his testicles, but obviously they couldn't show that on screen back then). There's also the standard issue beatings. The final scene is one I found a bit implausible, but other than that the movie is well worth a watch.

Unfortunately, Circle of Deception doesn's seem to be on DVD at all. And the print FXM showed is panned and scanned.

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