Eye Of The Needle (UA 1981, Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan)

Eye of the Needle

Richard Marquand’s part spy thriller, part love-triangle Eye Of The Needle is set in war-time Britain. Henry Faber (Donald Sutherland), a seemingly innocuous railway worker, is in fact a Nazi spy known as “The Needle”, who passes Allied troop movements back to his superiors. Ordered to report on the plans for the D-Day invasion, he discovers the Allies’ fake plans and secret landing spots and, pursued by counter-intelligence officer Godliman (Ian Bannen), heads to Scotland and a rendevouz with a U-Boat.

But a storm strands him on an isolated island, where he is taken in by Lucy (Kate Nelligan) and her wheelchair-bound husband David (Christopher Cazenove), an ex-Spitfire pilot. Lucy and Faber begin an affair but he is still desperate to fulfil his mission. Finding out that another inhabitant on the island has a radio transmitter, he sets out with David who has, by now, learnt of not only Faber’s real role but also his affair with Lucy. As Faber desperately tries to contact the U-Boat, only David and Lucy can stop him passing on the secrets that will keep the world enslaved.

Eye of the Needle Donald Sutherland

Marquand balances the chase elements and the love affair superbly, with Nelligan offering a convincing portrait of a woman in love with her husband but desperately unfulfilled and alone on the island, while Sutherland, despite being brutal in pursuit of his task, also brings sympathy to his role, showing a man tired of lying and hiding, not allowed to form relationships. The film, largely shot on the Isle of Mull, captures the isolation of island life superbly, and the end is both taut and tender.

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Christopher Cazenove, Kate Nelligan, Ian Bannen

Director: Richard Marquand
Producer: Stephen Friedman
Screenwriters: Stanley Mann, from Ken Follet’s novel
Composer: Miklos Rozsa
Cinematography: Alan Hume

UK / United Artists – Kings Road / 113 minutes / 1981

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