“SPIDER IN THE WEB”
Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis brings us a new spy drama starring Ben Kingsley as an aging Mossad agent who is struggling to maintain his relevance. He bonds with a younger operative sent to monitor him while he’s on a secret mission in Europe and this is a reflection on human relationships as well as “on the Europe of today – fragile, troubled, under constant threats from the outside and in turmoil on the inside.”
Adereth (Sir Ben Kingsley), is a once-lauded but now aging field agent of the Israeli Mossad and his superiors feel that he is past his prime. There are those above him that are sure that he’s been fabricating intelligence to maintain his relevance and so they send Daniel (Itay Tiran) a young operative to insure that Adereth does not deviate from his mission to deliver crucial information regarding a sale of chemical weapons to a Middle Eastern dictatorship that he claims is waiting for him. This information leads to the mysterious Angela (Monica Bellucci), who might be a target, a lover or an enemy. (or all of these or none of these). Lines of trust become blurred and Adereth realizes the hunter may become the hunted.
Naturally the art of seduction plays a role and there are many double-crosses as we move toward the end of the film. As you are on the edge of your seat, it all comes together but only after you have been confused by the somewhat convoluted plot. The basic theme seems to be that if one wears a mask, he/she may not know who he/she is once it is removed and this certainly says something about those wearing masks today.
Adereth has had quite a good career with the Mossad and his successes compensate for his personal sacrifices. Eventually he feels that he needs pats on the back and the feeling of being useful so that he does not regret what he has missed in life. As he gets older his successes become less frequent and his contacts less valuable but he cannot stand the idea that once he is no longer a spy, he will not have any importance.
So instead of just fading away, Adereth chooses to add to the reports that he gets from his contacts. In particular, he added to the dossier results in 50,000 troops amassing on the border of Syria. Just as he is discovered to be pretending, he finds real information that could save his reputation and the life he has lost through lying.
Director Riklis brings us a spy film without much action and that depends on reality being obscured by lies. We sense how it will all end because we know that lies often get out of control of the person who tells it. Kingsley is bitter but he accepts his fate as he tries to find some kind of redemption when no one believes what he says. Having a bit of familiarity with the Mossad, I can think of no crueler fate for an agent.
We are kept on our toes from scene to scene and we find it becomes difficult to stay on the side of a character who just may not be what he seems to be. The subplot of main romance, between Adereth and Angela just did not work for me but it does provide a respite from the thrilling aspects of the plot.
The film is able to convince the viewer what living as a liar among other liars is like. As difficult as it is to follow all of the twists and turns, we still get a rewarding experience with “Spider in the Web”. to convincingly weave what it must be like to live as just another liar amongst many. The over-complicated plot twists, however, will leave many scratching their heads.