“A Call to Spy” is a welcome, albeit imperfect, addition to the existing slate of movies about World War II. The propulsive historical drama, which was written by Sarah Megan Thomas (she also plays Virginia Hall, one of the three leads) and directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher, explores the lives of three remarkable women who served as spies for the Allied nations.
It’s 1941 and Winston Churchill, desperate in the losing fight against the Nazis, has ordered the recruitment and training of women spies. Vera Atkins (Stana Katic), a secretary of the Special Operations Executive, persuades her doubtful male colleagues to let her recruit Hall, an American and an aspiring diplomat with a wooden leg, and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte), a British wireless operator and pacifist. The two women shine in the field and, in the face of danger and unexpected betrayal, prove themselves as assets to the French resistance.
“A Call to Spy” is based on real-life stories, and as a result, the film’s challenge lies in how it portrays long and multifaceted lives in two hours. The film’s attempts are good, but the sometimes heavy-handed dialogue and stilted character development make it difficult to fully appreciate the quality of the narratives. In fact, one wishes the movie had been imagined as a limited series, which would give viewers an opportunity to spend more time with these women whose lives were so clearly rich and textured — not to mention, courageous.
A Call to Spy
Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Amazon, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.