Film: Secret Mission

I’m usually a sucker for old wartime spy thrillers, but Secret Mission (1942) is so generic as to be nearly nonexistent. This suspense-free WWII morale-booster follows a team of Allied—including a French resistance agent played by James Mason—as they sneak into France on a nebulous operation to uncover the German order of battle. Once ashore, they connect with old friends and the local resistance, who shield them from capture while they carry out a rather cavalier infiltration of a local Nazi HQ to steal valuable intelligence. In the process, they lose one of their own, but not before the leader—Major Peter Barnett (Hugh Williams)—has a whirlwind romance with a conflicted local woman (Carla Lehmann).

Secret Mission isn’t so much a thriller as an upbeat, low-budget vehicle for Allied home-front patriotism. Its heroic quartet—Williams, Mason, Roland Culvert, and Michael Wilding—are pretty obvious spies, but that doesn’t matter because the film’s primary objective is to depict the Germans as bumbling, foolish adversaries easily outwitted by British pluck and resiliency. Considering the desperate time of its making, it might have served a valuable purpose, but it doesn’t hold up. I suspect I’ll start to forget about it as soon as I post this review.

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