Just Another Spy Thriller
Whilst there have been a couple of decent adaptations of Frederick Forsyth novels far too often the power of his writing is lost in conversion to film. And sadly that most definitely seems to be the case with "Just Another Secret" because other than Frederick Forsyth giving us an "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" style intro, what follows could have been a movie based on anyone's spy story. And that sadly means that "Just Another Secret" ends up a run of the mill spy thriller which being a TV movie is also hampered by it's budget. But that's not the only problem as some wrong casting and a lack of excitement means that "Just Another Secret" end up dull and less than memorable.
After 5 CIA agents go missing in East Germany, top American agent Jack Grant (Beau Bridges) is sent undercover to try and find out what happened to the 5 agents. Having slipped into East Germany, masquerading as a concert musician, Grant starts snooping around, using his persuasive talents to get inside information from within the Communist organization. But what he discovers surprises him as a forthcoming visit by Mikhail Gorbachev looks like it is going to be blighted by an assassination attempt.
Although "Just Another Secret" is adapted from a Frederick Forsyth story it doesn't come across as one and with the exception of the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" style intro which Forsyth delivers it would be just another spy thriller. The whole story of missing CIA operatives in East Germany and a top agent going there undercover to try and work out what has happened to them is both familiar and not that exciting. And whilst we get a few twists and a question over whether someone is an agent or a double agent it really struggles to get interesting. Even when the plot to assassinate Mikhail Gorbachev shows itself in what is not even a twist, it still feels all a little mundane and quite cliche.
And to be honest with certain elements feeling cliche and a few others plainly wrong "Just Another Secret" feels like it's trying too hard to be like something else. One of the biggest issues for me is that there is a sex scene between Jack Grant and Anneliese, a cliche scene that you sort of expect long before it comes but it is a cliche which feels wrong because in the limited background we get about Jack is that he is a family man. But there are other things which seem to me to be just wrong such as Jack finding a British agent having coffee in the open and then openly discussing what he is up to. Maybe the real world of espionage is like that, not as cloak and daggers as bigger movies make it out to be, but it feels very wrong.
What also feels wrong is that "Just Another Secret" is also short on action which makes it feel weak compared to other big budget spy thrillers. Again maybe the real world of espionage isn't all high speed chases and blazing gun fights, in fact I'm sure it's not, but the handful of early action scenes lack any impact. Thankfully the action does increase as the movie winds it's way towards the big ending but even then it almost feels rushed without any real style. Of course with "Just Another Secret" being a TV movie the budget isn't there for big effects, but the rawness of a melee of gun fire doesn't quite do it.
But my biggest problem comes from the casting of Beau Bridges as CIA agent Jack Grant because whilst I enjoy Bridges as an actor he doesn't convey secret agent to me. Maybe the casting of Bridges was a master stroke because he looks like a regular guy but when it comes to the sex scene or the big finale it just doesn't feel right. And what is worse is that an important part of the movie sees Jack swap places with someone who lives in East Germany and looks like him, except in reality they look nothing like each other which makes that one point a bit laughable.
But to be frank, Beau Bridges acting is one of the best things about "Just Another Secret" and the rest of the cast which includes Kenneth Cranham, Michael Ensign and Beatie Edney who plays the attractive Anneliese are underused and occasionally miscast. "Just Another Secret" almost has a feeling that the producer and director cast the biggest names they could afford without really considering whether they really fitted the characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Just Another Secret" ends up a much flawed and very run of the mill spy thriller. It may have been written by Frederick Forsyth but what comes across on the screen could have been based upon pretty much any spy story. It's not a terrible spy thriller, especially as it is a TV movie but it is very average and ultimately easy forgotten.