By Harry Sherer
Looking at the cinematic chronicle of historical drama, there’s many things to love about the genre. It’s a form of cinema that isn’t just about entertainment, it’s also about enlightenment. Historical dramas highlight important individuals from the past that most of the general public doesn’t know about, but deserve to. They teach lessons from our history in the hopes that we won’t make the same ones today. They shed new light on new puzzle pieces of history that can recontextualize how we think about the world. Above all, I think we love historical dramas because, more often than not, they tell a tried-and-true underdog story that we all know and love. Better yet, they’re true.
Sarah Megan Thomas' A Call to Spy could not have come at a better time. It tells the tale of three women employed by Allied intelligence to try and take down the Nazi regime from the inside. It’s a mesh of genres— WWII, spy, drama, thriller— that within the overall narrative hides a heartwarming (and equally heart-wrenching) story about disability, discrimination, and overcoming impossible odds. In the broader context of the horrors of WWII, A Call to Spy highlights the individual struggles of those brave enough to stand and fight. Such a story is beyond topical in a time like this, as the world battles an unprecedented pandemic but most individuals feel its effects on a personal and individual level.
Directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher, A Call to Spy engages the audience on this kind of personal level from the very first scene. We’re not treated to the massacre of nameless soldiers on foreign battlegrounds, or the bombing of a vast European city, or the rounding up of hundreds of Jews by the Nazi regime, but instead the individual torture endured by our lead, American spy Virginia Hall, as she is interrogated by Nazi tormentors to give them the information they need to undermine the Allied intelligence operation.