Spy City movie review & film summary (2021)

Created and written by William Boyd and directed by Miguel Alexandre, “Spy City” begins in 1960 in Berlin, when the Cold War between the USSR and their former Allies comrades is heating up. MI6 agent Fielding Scott (Cooper) is meeting a man for the handoff of a yellow envelope that Scott is carrying for the British government. Fielding has no idea what the yellow envelope holds, but his mission is to deliver it to this man and leave, which seems like a simple task until the man shoots the waiter who comes into the bathroom and sees them together. The man then turns on Fielding too, and Fielding has to kill him to defend himself—only to learn that the man whose head he just smashed into a urinal was another British spy named Simon Haldane. Like Fielding, Simon’s “official” position was British diplomat, but he also must have been responsible for a secret mission in Berlin, as Fielding was. What went so wrong?

The premiere episode “Operation Beethoven” then jumps forward a year-and-a-half later. Fielding, who was kicked out of MI6 but avoided a criminal trial for Haldane’s death, is called back into the fold in spring 1961. Vindication is on the table if Fielding can pull off this mission: Travel back to Berlin and collect childhood friend Manfred Ziegler (Wanja Mues), now a scientist who has developed a missile tracking system. Ziegler was originally working with the Russians and now wants to defect to the UK, but will only do so if Fielding is there. If Fielding can bring Ziegler, code name Beethoven, and his technology in safely, then his record will be expunged.

It’s not a great deal, but it’s something—and does Fielding really have a choice? And to make things even more difficult, when Fielding arrives in Berlin, he’s surrounded by people either outwardly hostile or secretly duplicitous. His direct supervisor was a close friend of Simon’s, and has no understanding of why Fielding is back in the field. His secretary, Eliza (Leonie Benesch), is being blackmailed by the shadowy German agent August Froben (Tonio Arango) into spying on Fielding. And he has history with the other international agents with whom he’s expected to work—history that might get in the way. He knows American CIA agent Conrad Greer (Seumas F. Sargent) from serving together during World War II. He knows French agent Severine Bloch (Romane Portail) from his previous posting in Berlin. Conrad and Severine have their own secrets, too; “We are allies, I suppose,” Scott said, alluding to these countries’ bonds during World War II, but it’s been years since that conflict. The new world order might not quite align the same way.

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