This stylish thriller from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is set in Japan in 1940 shortly before they entered World War II. It opens with beautiful young couple making an amateur movie about betrayal. The husband Yusaku (Issey Takahashi, Kill Bill) though is in the import-export business and movie-making, just a hobby. He and his wife Satoko (Aoi Yû ) are a thoroughly cosmopolitan couple, but the prevailing winds in the country are turning anti-Western and nationalistic. Then on a business trip to Manchuria, Yusaku witnesses horrifying atrocities being committed by the Imperial Japanese Army and returns with documentary proof that he plans to share with the world. But once Satoko discovers her husband’s plan, the question becomes whether she will be loyal to him or her country.
Early on the city’s new head of military police, Taiji (Masahiro Higashide) comes to Yusaku’s office. He’s an old classmate of Satoko’s, and he still has a thing for her, but he’s clearly bought into the nationalist line. And when a woman that Yusaka brought back from Manchuria turns up dead, his nephew Fumio (Ryota Bando) is accused of her murder and tortured by Taiji. It’s a shockingly violent scene, but sets the bar for what Yusaka is risking. Satoko meanwhile has helped her husband by carrying papers to him from Fumio, who is being watched by the police. But her curiosity gets the better of her and she makes him tell her what he’s up to. Initially she’s more concerned about being called a traitor than about the atrocities being perpetrated by her own country.
Eventually she decides to stand by and aid her husband in his quest. Or so it initially seems. But everything doesn’t play out as expected. There are a series of twists that make this film worth your while. It’s also very well acted and paced. What is surprising is to see a film from Japan that deals so head on with the brutality they displayed prior to and during World War II. But Wife of a Spy is at its heart a relationship story, and love and betrayal are themes that swirl through the whole film right up until the end. And I highly recommend it to lovers of a good foreign thriller.
Opening in New York Sept 17th before expanding to select theaters nationwide and virtual cinemas.