Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' (1996) - Rotten Tomatoes

Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' (1996)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The sophomore directing effort by Dangerous Liaisons screenwriter Christopher Hampton, following Carrington, The Secret Agent is a well-performed but dramatically sluggish adaptation of the novel by Joseph Conrad. Set in London during the late 1880s, the film centers around Verloc; owner of a small pornography shop, he is a spy in the service of the Russian government. Far from the glamorous modern image of the secret agent, Verloc is a mere functionary who writes regular reports on a group of exiled anarchists he has infiltrated and does little else. The changing political mood, however, has led his supervisor to demand results. In order to encourage a British crackdown on anarchists, Verloc is ordered to stage a bombing of the Royal Observatory. The attack does not go as planned, however, resulting in tragedy for Verloc and his family, particularly his beautiful young wife Winnie and his mentally challenged stepson Stevie. Straddled uneasily between the strategies of a traditional suspense film and a more distant flashback structure, the film never achieves a confident dramatic momentum. Regardless, there are numerous strong performances, including a notably unnerving supporting turn by Robin Williams as an obsessive, potentially suicidal explosives expert.


Bob Hoskins
as Adolph Verloc
George Spelvin
as Professor
Jim Broadbent
as Chief Insp. Heat
Eddie Izzard
as Vladimir
Elizabeth Spriggs
as Winnie's mother
Robin Williams
as The Professor
Peter Vaughan
as The Driver
Julian Wadham
as The Assistant Commissioner
Roger Hammond
as Michaelis
Neville Phillips
as Ticket Clerk
View All

Critic Reviews for Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent'

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (3)

This project is dead in the water. Read the book. Better still, read Victory.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Drab and inept version of the great 1907 novel by Joseph Conrad on terrorism.

July 30, 2009 | Rating: C | Full Review…

A nostalgic sleepy and literate period piece spy drama that periodically captures your attention when least expected. Not as stimulating as one could imagine but nevertheless credible

June 7, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

An underrated historical thriller... watch for Robin Williams in a very creepy cameo.

July 27, 2002 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent'

Let's review: Christian Bale plays a retard who gets blown up by a bomb, Bob Hoskins gets knifed in the chest, Eddie Izzard has the worst Russian accent of all time, Robin Williams is uncredited and plays a terrorist, and Patricia Arquette plays a brittish woman making her terrible teeth acceptable. What's the point of all this? Nobody knows. A bunch of stuff happens and then the movie ends, but it wasn't un-enjoyable.

Curtis Lilly
Curtis Lilly

Super Reviewer


Maintains interest with story and great cast.

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features