Directed by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson.
Starring Gemma Arterton, James Norton, Marisa Abela, Sarah Goldberg, Shazad Latif, Freya Mavor, Rob Malone, Julian Barratt, Edwina Findley, Jimmy Akingbola, Charlotte Avery, Michael Fenton Stevens, Simon Chandler, Melissa Collier, Philip Wright, Matthew Douglas , Peter Heenan, Michael Drake and Martin Walsh.
The extraordinary and chilling story of professional con man Robert Freegard, who posed as an MI5 agent and tricked people into hiding, and the woman who fell in love with him and then brought him down.
There is a cult for everything. Inspired by true events (and hailing from the directing duo of Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, who share writing credits with Michael Bronner), rogue agent centers on Robert Freegard (a calculatedly manipulative James Norton) who assumes multiple aliases and pretends to convince certain people that he is an MI5 agent.
Like a shark sniffing blood, Robert selectively chooses his targets, who are generally people leading dull lives or vulnerable in some way (there are some very deplorable acts involving antidepressants), as they are quicker to believe his stories and fall under. a brainwashing spell. about potentially becoming spies and going into the field to thwart the 1990s Irish bombing attacks on London.
After a prologue briefly showcasing his hypnosis (with a narration from one of his victims discussing the ease with which he makes connections through eye contact and charm), the small group find themselves on the run and following Robert as rogue agent fast forward just under a decade later, with its leader now working as a car salesman. Trial attorney Alice Archer (Gemma Arterton) stumbles upon an interaction with Robert, initially rejecting her advances for a date, quickly giving in due to his charismatic persistence.
A bit to a fault, rogue agent he is more concerned with Robert’s seduction of Alice, alleviating his suspicions (he has friends in high places who easily deduce that he gave her a ghost name), and distorted manipulation to use negative stories about him as a means for his agency to make sure his associates are loyal to him, which means they can be trusted as to the “details of their mission” (especially if something goes wrong). Much more eerily fascinating is a young woman named Sophie (Marisa Abela), who has been under Robert’s spell for roughly nine years, running bogus field operations that only benefit him.
The idea that someone, let alone multiple people, can follow these orders and constantly believe they are part of an espionage organization with nothing beneficial to prove (and parting ways with their previous lives, but not before convincing the parents to handed over large sums of money) is unnerving in a way that should have been the central dynamic of the narrative, rather than a lengthy look at the early stages of this scam.
However, this questionable narrative approach doesn’t sink the film considering the chemistry between James Norton and Gemma Arterton is strong; Several sequences show how good Robert is at telling lies and thinking on his feet to turn history in his favor. As such, it’s hard to blame Alice for falling for the deception, though the script also knows when it’s time to back off of her and for her to get smarter.
There’s also the gripping and seemingly unbelievable aspect of true crime in this true-life story, which only makes the unfolding events more difficult (and there are quite a few disturbing revelations about Robert’s life). rogue agent it becomes much more immersive once Robert’s mask is removed, slowly showing how evil he is and how he can always go one step further.
A sharper, more insightful script would focus on the victims and perhaps put a little more effort into analyzing what made Robert such a monster, beyond giving in to the idea that some people are just wrong. Yet, rogue agent it’s compulsively watchable and a terrifying slice of a dramatized true crime (with some infuriating but somehow unsurprising final nuggets of information).
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the reviews editor for Flickering Myth. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]