Director Jens Jonsson’s feature The Spy is a biopic of a woman in need of more recognition. The Norwegian actress turned spy Sonja Wigert has an effectively empty English Wikepedia so Jonsson’s interest in giving her her due is understandable. Unfortunately, the biopic format feels repetitive as always irrespective of the topic.
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal plays Sonja starting with the 1940 premier of her film in recently occupied Norway. Despite her father’s participation in the resistance Sonja is ambivalent to the war and is willing to work with the Germans if they would allow her to make her dream film. When her apparent slight against a German officer ends in her father’s imprisonment, Sonja takes a Swedish government official’s offer to become an undercover spy in exchange for his help in arranging her father’s escape to Sweden.
The Spy is an extremely conventional film. While the Sonja is a figure who is worthy of having her story told, Jonsson does little to elevate the material into an interesting film. The screenplay hits traditional espionage plot points, but the tense moments lack the appropriate framing to deliver the anxiety to the audience. At one-point Jonsson apparently understood that the film never built appropriate stakes, so the cruelty of Sonja’s target is explained via voiceover letter reading with no accompanying imagery. Each decision is flat an unobjectionable creating an adequate but uninspired film.
While the uninventive storytelling and filming may have stopped The Spy from ever being a great film, technical issues completely sink the film. Specifically, the films sound is a complete mess. The loud sounds in the mix are extreme enough that they start to distort and crack at moments. Another issue present in the audio was that a few lines were completely missing. Characters mouths would open, and subtitles would pop up, but the audible lines did not make it through the editing.
Sonja Wigert lived a fascinating life that she was never able to share with others before her passing in 1980. Unfortunately, The Spy does not deliver on the potential of her story. A combination of unimaginative storytelling and technical flaws results in a feature undeserving of Wigert’s legacy.