'Wife of a Spy' movie review: A cold-hearted drama

'Wife of a Spy' movie review: A cold-hearted, effective drama

A still from 'Wife of a Spy'. Credit: BookMyShow

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: Issey Takahashi, Yu Aoi

Score: 3.5 stars

There is a lot to unpack in 'Wife of a Spy' between its drama, subject matter and the main actors. The film carries itself solemnly and with an ever-present sense of despair and terror, even though it doesn't necessarily start that way.

At its core, 'Wife of a Spy' is really not a spy film, at least not in its truest sense, especially when compared to films like 'Bridge of Spies', though a direct comparison would be an injustice to both of these films although both are historical dramas. No, at its heart, the film is closer to being a romantic drama with elements of espionage strewn about, set in the middle of World War II, using the backdrop of grotesque human experimentation at the hands of Imperial Japan's Kwantung Army.

The film primarily revolves around the life of a married couple - Yusaku and Satoko Fukuhara, who are by most means a happily married couple. Yusaku makes films with Satoko and a relative, Taiji, before leaving for Manchuria, ostensibly for making a film. Till now, about half an hour in, everything appears fine, but this is where the film really gets going.

The strength of 'Wife of a Spy' is in its use of its characters' simplicity of ideals and lives as a tool to drive the plot forward through conflict and subversion. It takes its time in establishing the relationship between Yusaku and Satoko, gradually driving a wedge between their ideals - justice for Yusaku and peace for Satoko.

Of course, getting caught up in a quarrel over ideals never ended well in World War II, and it holds true here as well. This is where the Kwantung Army's human experimentation really comes to light, effectively driving home the differences between the couple, at great cost for the larger family. Yet within this conflict itself lies the resolution the couple needs, which rises up like a flower in bloom, though stained by blood.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa brings in his experience directing romantic dramas, horror and thrillers to deliver an effective presentation. His use of muted colours, the infamously aggressive attitude of the Imperial Japanese army and the way he skirts on the edge of showcasing torture, preferring to imply it through emotions rather than display up-front, really work to the film's benefit.

To close, Wife of a Spy is a great film, both in its concept and its execution. It marries the horrors of World War II effectively with a drama that is not at all related to the frontlines of war and is all the better for it.

Wife of a Spy is streaming on BookMyShow Stream

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