The Secret Agent | Chicago Reader

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Christopher Hampton's grim and dank 1996 adaptation of the 1907 Joseph Conrad novel, set in London during the late 19th century, is closer in many ways to the original than Alfred Hitchcock's updated 1936 version, Sabotage—but that doesn't make it better. Bob Hoskins plays the central figure, a middle-aged anarchist with a younger wife (Patricia Arquette) who plots to bomb Greenwich Observatory, accidentally killing his feebleminded young brother-in-law in the process. Fairly strong on period atmospherics, but it mainly adds up to yet another pointless adaptation of a literary standby (arguably not one of Conrad's best)—one of the countless examples of dubious middlebrow fodder that keeps foreign-language pictures off our screens. With George Spelvin, Jim Broadbent, Christian Bale, and distracting turns by Gerard Depardieu and an uncredited Robin Williams.

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