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Eye of the Needle (1981, Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan)

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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 back to his superiors Allied troop movements. Ordered to report on the plans for the D-Day invasion, he discovers the Allies’ fake plans and the secret real 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, realised 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.

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 the island life superbly and the end film is both taut yet tender.

production details
UK / 112 minutes / 1981

Director: Richard Marquand
Writers: Stanley Mann from Ken Follet’s novel,

cast
Donald Sutherland as Henry Faber
Kate Nelligan as Lucy Rose
Stephen MacKenna as Lieutenant
Christopher Cazenove as David Rose
Philip Martin Brown as Billy Parkin
George Belbin as Lucy’s Father
Barbara Graley as David’s Mother
George Lee as Constable
Arthur Lovegrove as Peterson
Colin Rix as Oliphant
Barbara Ewing as Mrs. Garden
Ian Bannen as Inspector Godliman
Faith Brook as Lucy’s Mother

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