A Call to Spy tells the story of a female-led, British spy agency formed to place allied spies into unoccupied France during the early stages of WWII.
Inspired by actual events, A Call to Spy is the story of Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE), a WWII spy agency whose key initiative was to recruit and train female spies for field work in France. Spearheaded by Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), the program sent two vital agents into the field; the ambitious American agent with a wooden leg, Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas), and the Muslim pacifist, Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte). The women would go on to help create an undercover intelligence system in the allied defense against Nazi Germany, but not without a significant cost.
A Call to Spy is a historical drama film that lacks much of the cinematic polish found in its Hollywood counterparts. Its style feels more like a direct-to-video release in both tone and aesthetic, which could be considered a bonus for anyone looking to step away from mainstream war films, but its a style that also works against it, as it isn’t as engaging, or suspenseful as similarly-themed big-budget films. Looking past this, however, the film does tell a lesser known, powerful story about the efforts of these brave women in the fight against Nazi forces, with emphatic performances from the principal cast.
Sarah Megan Thomas (who also wrote the screenplay), Stana Katic, and Radhika Apte are great in their respective roles, and provide genuine portrayals of their characters’ motivations and ambitions, in what was a predominantly male-dominated effort. The three women all offer unique perspectives based on their roles in the spy program, and each have particular aspects of their lives that the audience can empathise with, allowing them to forge an emotional connection with the characters. This connection between the characters and the audience is what drives the film, as there isn’t much else in the story to engage the viewer.
A Call to Spy lacks intensity and is devoid of thrills, hurting the film’s overall entertainment value. While it does tell an important story in WWII history, it’s not an overly exciting one, or at least it isn’t conveyed that way here. As an educational narrative for war-history fans, however, A Call to Spy hits the mark in getting the message across and is a nice escape from mainstream drama films set during WWII.
After shooting, lead actress Sarah Megan Thomas’ left Achilles Tendon ruptured. The rupture occurred due to complications of playing Virginia Hall on screen (a historical character with a wooden left leg). Ms. Thomas needed surgery and extensive rehab to repair her Achilles.