The Operative: Spying Can Be Messy

Martin Freeman and Diane Kruger in The Operative. Photo by Kolja Brandt. Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.

The Operative isn’t a fast-paced spy thriller but there’s enough going on here to keep your attention for the two-hour run time.

Filmmaker Yuval Adler brings Yiftach R. Atir’s novel, The English Teacher, to the screen.  It is films such as this one that should remind us that spying isn’t just about the fast cars that never come back in one piece.  No, they can be slow-burn thrillers, too.  This is the case here for Mossad operative Rachel (Diane Kruger) working an undercover operation in Tehran.  Her handler, Thomas (Martin Freeman), gave her specific instructions but with Rachel having gone rogue, THomas is forced back from Berlin to Israel.  Meanwhile, Rachel has developed a relationship with her target, Farhad Razavi (Cas Anvar).  Nobody said spying would be easy, am I right?

Rachel may have a job to do for Mossad but life has a way of getting in the way even when you’re working undercover.  This certainly can explain why she made the decision to go rogue.  Even though Rachel ends up going rogue, Thomas still has an obvious interest in her career to the point that he would certainly risk his life if he had to.

Martin Freeman may be playing a Mossad agent but he plays things here differently than CIA agent Everett Ross in both Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.  Both of them are completely different people.  One is fictional while the other is certainly inspired by real people.  As for Diane Kruger, she’s perfectly fine here.  I’ve grown accustomed to watching her work on screen and her performance here is nothing out of the ordinary.  It’s on Kruger, however, to carry as much of the film as possible.

For a film taking place in 2010, it is also very fascinating to see how the electronics look on screen.  Even though a decade has almost passed us by, technology has changed so much!  The key here is to look at the phones.  This detail is a small one in the thick of things.

I must admit that I did not read The English Teacher.  I do have some questions about the film’s ending.  I’m going to make the assumption that the book comes to a similar open-ended conclusion.  My best bet is that it’s possible that the filmmakers might have plans in mind for a sequel but I don’t know.

One other thing is for certain.  It is not easy to shoot an Israeli production in Iran, let alone an American one.  There’s a few more countries involved, including Germany and France.  Regardless, German cinematographer Kolja Brandt was able to capture footage of Tehran while receiving direction over the phone from Adler.  Everything is able to come together beautifully in the end.

The Operative has capable performances and is an otherwise fine spy thriller in the vein of John le Carré.

CAST:  Diane Kruger, Martin Freeman, and Cas Anvar

Vertical Entertainment opens The Operative in theaters and VOD on August 2, 2019. Grade: 3/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.