Rogue Agent (Movie Review)

It is not uncommon for Spy Thrillers and romance to go hand in hand. Franchise films like James Bond or Mission: Impossible have mashed those two genres together in the minds of audiences. Rogue Agent, a new Spy Thriller from Co-Writers/Directors Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson (The Salisbury Poisonings 2020, Rough 2021), takes advantage of that typical mashup. Based on the true events surrounding notorious conman Robert Freegard, Rogue Agent is an intriguing UK Psychological Thriller that proves a woman scorned is not one to be messed with. In the US, you can catch Rogue Agent in select theaters and streaming on AMC+ as of August 12, 2022.

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Rogue Agent, which takes place in the UK, sets us up with a bit of history about the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and their bombing efforts in the late ’90s. Freegard (James Norton: Little Women 2019, Mr. Jones 2019), posing as a bartender, recruits three susceptible university students to become “freelance” spies for the British secret service, MI5, against a potential IRA threat within the university. Freegard seems to know what he’s talking about. His charm and earnestness as he teaches these students all the tricks they need to manipulate and maneuver their way through the mission. We believe him as much as they do. As the narration explains, all he has to do is look into their eyes long enough to register the color, and people are hooked.

Nearly a decade later, Alice Archer (Gemma Arterton: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time 2010, The King’s Man 2021), a successful litigation lawyer, finds Freegard in London under the name Robert Hansen and selling luxury cars. In spite of her initial reservations, Alice finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance with the shy but disarming man who takes her on bizarre dates to lighthouses. However, when Alice asks Phil (Julian Barratt: The Mighty Boosh series, The Great series), a private investigator and former cop, to find any information on the man she knows as Robert Hansen, he turns up nothing but “a ghost.”

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Norton, who also served as producer on the film, is every bit the slick and charming con artist. Rogue Agent at first puts viewers in Alice’s position: unsure about the handsome luxury car salesman whose charms outweigh a few potential red flags. We learn of the true depths of Freegard’s deceptions as they unfold, right along with Alice. When the lines between truth and deceit begin to blur, Rogue Agent turns from a sleek Romance into a gritty Drama as Alice refuses to play the victim. Using her tenacity and legal know-how to save longtime victim Sophie (Marisa Abela: Cobra series, Industry series) and his latest Jenny (the incredible and underused Sarah Goldberg: Barry series, The Night House 2020), Alice becomes embroiled in the international manhunt for Freegard.

Rogue Agent plays like a Truce Crime documentary come to life. The grittiest details are saved for last, and all of its drama is stored in dialog and narration before wrapping up the story with a too-neat bow. Despite being slow burn with a nearly two-hour run time that some may find difficult to sit through, Rogue Agent’s twists and deceptions are easy to get sucked into. However, there is so much focus on the women who Freegard manipulated—rightfully so— but, there is little to no information on what happened to these women in the wake of his psychological trauma.

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Those mind games are what keep the film flowing. Big action moments are few and far between, but the tight dialog and excellent performances keep the tension running high. Every actor excels here, but once Goldberg is introduced in the second hour, she effortlessly steals the show. She will no doubt be taking over big and small screens everywhere in no time.

Overall, True Crime connoisseurs will find plenty to enjoy in Rogue Agent. Sleek production design, beautiful set pieces, and unique cinematography will keep eyes on the screen even in those few moments where the story droops. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this film 3.5 out of 5 stars.

IFC Films

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1 Comment

  • Talking of curious but compelling movies, the non-fiction Rogue Agent is most bizarre and distinctively different. It’s about the real MI6 conman Robert Freegard and stars James Norton and Gemma Arterton. Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson produced the film. Fact is often stranger than fiction, so this real life film is intense and makes for psychologically scary watching.

    Ignoring Rogue Agent and The Courier, sadly there’s not enough fact based espionage on the menu so after watching Rogue Agent why not try reading another non-fiction thriller about a real life Maverick Agent instead. We suggest a noir espionage masterpiece could do the trick. One compelling thriller springs to mind. It’s a down to earth intriguing real life novel called Beyond Enkription, the first stand-alone thriller in The Burlington Files, about a not so boring accountant (Bill Fairclough, codename JJ, aka Edward Burlington) who infiltrates a global organised crime syndicate while unwittingly working for MI6.

    If you have already devoured and liked Beyond Enkription or The Courier, the Cumberbatch film about Greville Wynne, you should love Rogue Agent. Just like Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor about KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky, these are all “must reads or must views” for espionage cognoscenti.

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