Film Still from DAMASCUS COVER

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Israeli spy Ari Ben-Zion with depth and skill in Daniel Zelik Berk’s political thriller DAMASCUS COVER

A spy navigates the precarious terrain of love and survival in Daniel Zelik Berk’s new film DAMASCUS COVER, a political thriller set in Syria.

Based on the best-selling 1977 novel by Howard Kaplan, DAMASCUS COVER tells the story of Ari Ben-Zion (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an Israeli spy who is recalled to Jerusalem after a failed attempt to bring a mole back to Israel alive. Unsure how many of its operatives have been exposed, the Mossad assigns Ari to smuggle a chemical weapons scientist and his family out of Syria but when Ari’s mission goes wrong, he realises he is just a pawn in a much bigger and dangerous game that will change him forever.

From the opening fight sequence to the explosive ending, DAMASCUS COVER is a fast-paced, action thriller that fits right into the spy genre. Director Daniel Zelik Berk makes good use of the locations to deliver a visually impressive film with a good pace between the action and emotional aspects of the story. Berk and Samantha Newton’s screenplay also delivers plenty of plot twists and turns to keep the intrigue and the energy high.

Rhys Meyers brings the lead role of Ari to life in a freshly stoic and disturbed way. Alternately intense and tender, Rhys Meyers plays the Israeli spy with skill and depth and unlike other spy movies, is not unbelievably smart or untouchable in combat, but more realistic with the skills and abilities he has.

Olivia Thirlby is equally good as photojournalist Kim. Despite being Ari’s love interest, her character has a genuine role in the story, rather than existing purely as a plot device. The relationship between the two leads also feels genuine with a realistic chemistry between the actors.

A couple of the narrative elements don’t work as well as expected including the opening expository voiceover which feels a little trite. Despite the strong leads, some of the supporting characters also feel quite stale and predictable and the dialogue is a little wooden at times.

That said, there is enough twists and turns to keep you interested and it is wonderful to see John Hurt play the head of the Israeli Secret Service with aplomb, in one of his last ever films.

3.5 out of 5 stars

DAMASCUS COVER screened at the Manchester Film Festival on 3 March 2018.