New to Netflix UK from today, and heading into US cinemas and onto AMC+ on the 12th August, is the British crime thriller, Rogue Agent. Inspired by a true story, the movie – directed by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson – stars Gemma Arterton and James Norton, and follows the tale of a young woman who enters into a relationship with a conman, who claims to be an undercover spy.
In the movie, Alice Archer is a young, successful lawyer. One day, on the way to her office she catches the attention of Robert Hansen – a local car salesman.
Over the next couple of days, Robert gets close to Alice, and the pair start dating. But after Robert begins to act suspicious, Alice asks a private investigator to look into his background.
The private investigator cannot find any trace of Robert, which worries Alice in the process. When she confronts Robert about this discovery, he informs her his real name is Robert Freegard and he is an undercover agent working for MI5.
Although it seems a little unlikely, Alice believes Robert’s story about being a spy, and they continue their relationship. But as time passes, Alice begins to suspect he is not telling the truth about his identity, and there may be many skeletons in his closet.
Prior to watching this movie, I was unaware of the worrying background to this story. As noted above, the film is inspired by true events, which relate to the real-life crimes of confidence trickster, Robert Hendy-Freegard.
His story has been previously covered in the 2005 Channel 5 documentary, The Spy Who Stole My Life, as well as the 2022 Netflix docu-series, The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman. To date, I have seen neither of these documentaries, however, after watching Rogue Agent, I will be checking them out shortly.
As for Rogue Agent itself, well, this is a dramatization of the Hendy-Freegard story. James Norton takes on the role of Freegard, while Gemma Arterton plays the part of one of his victims, and as dreadful as the real-life events are, this movie is a fascinating watch.
From the moment I pressed ‘play’ on the film, I was hooked. Norton is superb as the smooth, yet oily conman, while Arterton is excellent as Alice, playing a woman who becomes deeply impacted by the circumstances that surround her.
Together the pair make this a compelling watch. I believe Rogue Agent would be an interesting movie regardless of the cast, simply because of the story being told, but the Norton/Arterton combo gives it the edge.
What also works in this film’s favour is the way everything is slotted together. Through the tone, the pacing, the music, and the lighting, the film balances all of its many components to ensure a fully-rounded, and sometime quite sinister piece of film.
As the story unfolds, and the truth behind Freegard’s crimes bubble to the surface, Rogue Agent cranks up the tension. It moves into some dark places, adding further layers to the tale, and giving its lead players chance to shine even more.
If Rogue Agent has a downside, it is that on some occasions it does feel a bit like a TV drama, rather than a film. From time-to-time it plays like the sort of thing that pops up over a series of nights on ITV, rather than something which feels like a big budget feature.
This is not to knock those TV dramas by the way, as ITV makes some crackin’ shows, but it is to say that Rogue Agent could benefit from a little more spectacle, to warrant its status as a film. However, if you are watching Rogue Agent on Netflix (or on AMC+), I don’t expect you will be that bothered if this is a film or a TV show, as long as it is interesting and entertaining – which it is.
Whether you are familiar with this story or not, I recommend you add Rogue Agent to your watchlist. You’ll not only find the movie engrossing, you’ll be interested to find out further details of the case, post-viewing.
Netflix often get criticised for picking up movies that are a little hollow (which sadly, they do), but Rogue Agent isn’t one of these films and it certainly has some substance. Thanks to a strong central cast, plus some fine direction from Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, Rogue Agent is a film to check out, so don’t let it pass you by.