If you are a true crime fanatic, you may have seen the Netflix docuseries released earlier this year called The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman. If you aren’t familiar with the show, it’s the true story behind scammer Robert Freegard. British directing duo, Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, have taken on that story and brought it to the big screen in their first feature-length film, Rogue Agent.
The film revolves around Robert Freegard (James Norton), the notorious British conman who targeted women for their money by posing as a member of the British security service, also known as MI5. Gemma Arterton stars alongside Norton as Alice Archer, the pragmatic lawyer who falls for Freegard but ultimately brings him down.
There is a lot that happens in the first 10 minutes of the film that establishes how Freegard was able to use his ‘authority’ over three unsuspecting college students; Sophie (Marisa Abela), Mae (Freya Mavor), and Ian (Rob Malone). He convinced them they could be recruited as MI5 agents if they had completed some “missions.”
One of the missions included spying on their Irish peers because 1993, where the film starts, was the year the Irish Republican Army, also known as the IRA, planned bombings in England to put pressure on the UK government to withdraw their claim on Northern Ireland.
Freegard capitalized on these horrible incidents to lure the students and gain their trust and loyalty. In turn, the students became dependent on him as he held answers to all their questions, especially the biggest one: if they had what it took to become MI5 agents officially.
A nine-year time jump introduces Alice Archer and the development of her relationship with Robert Freegard. He is endearing, witty, and as simple as a car salesperson can be. Norton played Freegard brilliantly as he charmed his way into Alice’s life and swindled her out of 120,000 GBP after she agreed to start a business with him renting luxury cars.
Michael Bronner, Captain Phillips co-producer, is behind the writing of the film that was previously titled Chasing Agent Freegard. His script is tension-filled, especially when it picks up speed halfway through the film when Alice receives an email from her bank informing her a large sum of money has been withdrawn. Near the end of the film, where most of the action unravelled, Lawson and Patterson were able to balance different storylines to demonstrate how Robert Freegard affected the lives of the women he deceived. Alice, who was searching far and wide for clues/people to prove Freegards crimes and convict him, Sophie, who he abandoned in an unfamiliar location and his newest victim, American citizen Jenny Jackson.
Rogue Agent is a story based on shocking real-life events that will leave you in disbelief at the lengths Robert Freegard went to to get what he wanted. Rogue Agent is suspenseful and is most definitely an engaging watch.
Rogue Agent is now streaming on Netflix UK. It will hit US theatres and streaming service AMC+ on August 12th.
by Kadija Osman
Kadija Osman is based in Toronto, Ontario and is currently completing her undergrad in journalism at Ryerson University. She enjoys writing about film and TV. When she isn’t watching Timothée Chalamet’s filmography, she is probably reading romance and thriller novels or ranting about the disappointing cancellation of E!’s The Royals. Her favourite films include Kingsman: The Secret Service, Lady Bird and Ready or Not. You can find her on Twitter: @kadijaosman_ and Letterboxd.