The Spy and the Sparrow -- Film Review

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SEATTLE -- Since �The Spy and the Sparrow� was shot in Seattle and makes excellent use of the city�s varied landscapes, it�s not surprising that the film�s world premiere took place at the Seattle International Film Festival. The producers are seeking distribution for the picture, an espionage thriller crossed with an intense family drama. While it lacks major marquee names and doesn�t quite hit a home run, it is an engrossing, superbly acted movie that will please audiences who manage to catch it.

The ambitious film spans some 25 years and weaves together a large number of characters and plot strands. Black-and-white flashbacks establish Thomas Sparrow (David Rasche) as a CIA agent in Berlin during the Cold War era who was involved in a money-transfer assignment that went awry. Sparrow is now retired and has returned to Seattle, but his former CIA associates are still curious about what happened to the loot and the Russian Mafia is also in on the chase. At the same time, Sparrow is trying to reconnect with his daughter, Josephine (Elisabeth Rohm), whom he hasn�t seen since she was a child. Josephine is a heavy drinker who indulges in soulless sexual trysts while also trying to take care of a young daughter. Many of Josephine�s problems stem from her father�s desertion, and Thomas is hoping to make amends and straighten out her life.

Steve Edmiston�s screenplay brings a lot of texture to these characterizations, and the actors enrich the script. In a different kind of role from those he usually plays, Rasche movingly captures the central character�s torment and remorse. Eric Roberts gives a sensitive performance as Josephine�s shrink, who also (in a rather strained coincidence) happens to be a former CIA employee. The film�s revelation is Rohm, who exposes Josephine�s self-destructive anger while always engaging our sympathy. As the slick, baby-faced lawyer who represents Josephine in a custody battle with her ex-husband, Chad Lindberg is immensely appealing.

While the ending is easy to predict, there are some clever twists along the way. Director Garrett Bennett builds considerable suspense while also doing justice to the tortured human drama, and Julio Ribeyro�s cinematography is first-rate. One scene in which a drunken Josephine smashes her car into a power line that causes all of Seattle -- including the Space Needle -- to go dark is an amusing tour de force. The film�s technical achievements are impressive, but the more crucial accomplishment is the insight into all of the characters in this densely layered mosaic.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival
Production: EKE Pictures
Cast: David Rasche, Elisabeth Rohm, Eric Roberts, Chad Lindberg, John Aylward, Grant Goodeve, Paul Morgan Stetler, Natasha Sims
Director: Garrett Bennett
Screenwriter: Steve Edmiston
Producers: Steve Edmiston, Victor Kepler, Lenville O�Donnell
Executive producer: Shaun McCarthey
Director of photography: Julio Ribeyro
Production designer: Michael Lorefice
Costume designer: Janae Giurlani
Editors: Bryan Gunnar Cole, Liza McDonald
No MPAA rating, 86 minutes