Being a spy is an unfulfilled childhood dream everyone has had at some point in their lives. While our chances of being these secretive agents of espionage are slim to none, at least we are able to get a glimpse of what it’s really like through biopics made about the lives of real-life spies. Spies definitely live intriguing lives, one that we can only understand through well-crafted movies. If you are on the lookout for edge-of-your-seat films about agents and counteragents, here are five movies you should add to your must-watch list.
Argo is a historical drama-thriller that premiered in 2012, depicting the real story of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in 1979 by militants, taking 66 American hostages. Here is the official plot of the story, according to Rotten Tomatoes: “Amid the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge with the Canadian ambassador. Knowing that it’s just a matter of time before the refugees are found and likely executed, the U.S. government calls on extractor Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to rescue them. Mendez’s plan is to pose as a Hollywood producer scouting locations in Iran and train the refugees to act as his “film” crew.” Argo was an awards favorite during the 85th Academy Awards. It won three awards: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best FIlm Editing. It also won various awards from the Golden Globes and the British Academy Film Awards. Ben Affleck stars and directs the movie, and he received accolades both for his roles in front and behind the camera. Alongside him are actors Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman. A film review of Argo for CinemaBlend wrote: “The emotional catharsis of Argo isn’t what happens onscreen, but the sheer knowledge that the creaky old moviemaking system has put together something this crowd-pleasing and great.”
The Good Shepherd
Another spy film that depicts the real-life stories of historical agents is The Good Shepherd. It claims to tell the “untold” story of the birth of counterintelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency. The movie mainly focuses on the story of Edward Wilson Sr., a character loosely based on the real-life James Jesus Angleton. Angleton was the chief of counterintelligence at the CIA from 1954 to 1974. The Good Shepherd features an ensemble cast, starring Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Tammy Blanchard, Billy Crudup, Keir Dullea, Martina Gedeck, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Lee Pace, Eddie Redmayne, John Sessions, Oleg Stefan, John Turturro, and Robert De Niro. De Niro also directed the movie, and he was praised for his direction of the film. While reviews of the movie were mixed, some critics were generous of their appraisal of the movie. The BBC wrote that the movie was solid, but that Matt Damon was too young to have taken the lead role in the flick. “It’s well built but the Matt Damon character remains blank and too young to be convincing. It’s solid, but like Damon himself it’s a bit dull.”
The most recent flick in this list, The Courier is a 2020 movie featuring the story of Greville Wynne, a British businessman thrust into the world of espionage during the Cold War. The movie was directed by Dominic Cooke, who previously worked on On Chesil Beach. The Courier stars Benedict Cumberbatch, playing the role of Greville Wynne. It also features Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley, Angus Wright, Zeljko Ivanek, Kirill Pirigov, Anton Lesser, Maria Mironova, and Vladimir Chuprikov. In an interview with Hey U Guys, Cumberbatch admitted that he wasn’t familiar with story until he took on the role: “I think my parents might remember it but I shamelessly knew nothing about it, but that’s great,” he said. “That’s why these stories need to be rediscovered, confronted. I think we’ve been living in an extraordinary time where ordinary people have done remarkably brave things so there’s a resonance through the culture at the moment. He was just a very ordinary man – he came from a Welsh, pretty impoverished, background, his mum was incredibly socially and wanted the best for him and their lot. Severely dyslexic to near illiteracy but the gift of the gab got him his business.”
Bridge of Spies
Released in 2015 and directed by Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies is a historical drama portraying the legal complications surrounding the exchange of two agents, American Francis Gary Powers and Soviet agent Rudolf Abel. A central figure in the story is lawyer James B. Donovan, who is tasked with negotiating the release of Donovan. Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Scott Shepherd, Amy Ryan, Sebastian Koch, Alan Ada, Austin Stowell, and Billy Magnussen, among many others. Bridge of Spies is highly acclaimed, beloved by both critics and audiences alike and sweeping nominations at the Academy Awards. Tom Hanks’ performance in the movie was also widely praised. Collider wrote about the movie: “Bridge of Spies is a quality film featuring loads of commendable work, but Spielberg’s glossy and exceedingly upbeat take on the material might make it more of a crowdpleaser than an Oscar contender.”
Last on this list is Munich, a historical movie again directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie’s official plot is as follows: “After the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and their coach at the 1972 Olympics, the Israeli government secretly assigns Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) to carry out a series of strategic retaliations. With the help of a driver (Daniel Craig), a forger (Hanns Zischler), a bomb-maker (Mathieu Kassovitz) and a former soldier (Ciarán Hinds), Avner conducts a worldwide operation, targeting 11 individuals. As the assassinations pile up, Avner begins to doubt the morality of his actions.” The movie stars Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Ciaran Hinds, Matthieu Kassovitz, and Hanns Zischler. The movie received critical acclaim and garnered praise for the performances of the actors. Eric Bana was particularly praised, with Daily Telegraph writing: “Eric Bana gives a performance that deserves something more serious than an Oscar. It’s a sublimely convincing portrayal of a man who is travelling far from who he is in order to defend who he is.”