James Norton casts a spell in “Rogue Agent”.

Rogue Agent

Robert Hendy-Freegard seduced his victims with tales of espionage taken from the pages of John Le Carré and Ian Fleming. Stories redolent of cocktails that were shaken but not stirred. In reality, though, he was a fraud. Fronting as a luxury car salesman, he falsely recruited his victims to MI5 as a means of conning them out of their, or their parents’, life savings.

In the new movie “Rogue Agent” by directors Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, James Norton (“Little Women” and “War and Peace”) is perfect as Freegard. Hard to dislike at first, he gradually reveals the sociopath that lies beneath that beautiful facade. He could be James Bond’s evil twin and his performance alone makes the movie worth watching. Gemma Atherton as a fictionalized version of the woman who saw through the illusion, and managed to ensnare him in his own trap, has the harder role. Always on the verge of being the next great British actress, she is Norton’s match except for the movie’s latter and weaker third when it opens out to focus on four of Freegard’s other victims.

Rogue Agent

Like HBO’s superb limited series “The Staircase”, Freegard has also been the subject of his very own Netflix documentary “The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman”. Here, again, the feature film trumps the documentary. That said, however, there is something lacking in the movie. Take away the performances of the two leads and we are left with pedestrian filmmaking by the directors. That’s why IFC Films saw fit to release the movie simultaneously in theatres and AMC+.


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