Drama/Mystery/Romance | XYZ Films | Runtime: 99m | Rated: R
Written & Directed By: Adam Christian Clark
Starring: Tamara Taylor, Reece Noi, Fred Melamed, Jon Lindstrom, Susan Sullivan
Synopsis: A fading CIA intelligence officer broken down from her life in the field and left with little money at the expense of her vices, is given one last mission to recruit an asset connected to a Saudi Royal Family. An operation that will test her already fractured mental state.
I would consider myself a longtime fan of the spy genre. Of course, loud, action-filled blockbusters like Mission: Impossible, and The Bourne Identity, capture the world of espionage through a glamourized lens. Exotic international locations, lavish hotels, and designer attire in these adventures build a sexy atmosphere that can seduce viewers with larger-than-life tales. Then there are films like Diary of a Spy from Adam Christian Clark. Movies that explore the world of spies and covert missions with a more grounded and realistic approach. Focusing on the drama and the mental strain of being a spy rather than the spectacle of car chases, explosions, and world threatening villains.
Being a spy would presumably come with a sea of psychological baggage and I enjoyed how that was navigated in this story. Diary of a Spy centers on Anna (Tamara Taylor), an agent at the end of a long career. She’s clearly depressed. She’s lonely, and she has a gaping void in her life from the years of agency missions and the lost lives of those close to her. Taylor captures the needed emotional torment with a gripping performance. She gets this mission to bring some redemption to her fading career and as Diary of a Spy progresses there is intrigue as to whether or not she has the emotional stability to complete this job. She’s reeling from her team being killed. She’s fallen into an alcohol-soaked depression and clearly at a low-point.
Her objective is either perfect for her skillset, or perfect for exposing her vulnerabilities and it’s fascinating at times to see how she maneuvers through this mission of building a romantic connection to a young man named Camden (Reece Noi) who has his own mysterious layers. Clark’s direction and the cinematography from David McFarland create a somber tone. The story for the most part takes place at night, even in the day there’s darkness looming over this movie and it does build an effective atmospheric mystery. Clark keeps this movie in the shadows, and it complements these characters who are doing much the same. Hiding in the darkness and presenting a false version of themselves. Diary of a Spy keeps a methodical pace as it proceeds through the twists and turns of secret meetings, deceit, and agency orders. So, this is certainly a movie that relies on you being a fan of this subgenre.
It weaves interesting layers to keep the curiosity of what these characters will do at an attention-grabbing level. However, it’s also a film that relies on the emotional intensity and with many lulls in the plot progression the intensity is kept at a minimum level. On the other hand, the story does show a focus on a realistic approach to this world, so for that aspect Diary of the Spy could be considered a bit of a mixed bag. It isn’t flashy, but it does have a dramatic undercurrent that is allowed to shine in a few scenes. But again, this is a very dark movie visually, it does hinder a bit of the engagement simply because it’s too hard to see what’s happening. So, it does lean into its atmosphere and its moodiness a bit too much. There’s clearly an artistic eye to Diary of a Spy but it keeps the viewer at arms distance. Resulting in a film you sort of need to catch at the right time because you have to want to invest in this one, rather than it coming in and sweeping you up.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.