Ben Kingsley, simply put, is convincing in any role he chooses to tackle. With Spider in the Web, Kingsley is a Mossad agent who attempts one final mission before he is put out to pasture. Thanks to a surprisingly resonant storyline and subtle hand from filmmaker Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride), the film scores on different levels.
Aderath (Ben Kingsley) is determined to prove his capabilities as a Mossad agent, and his latest mission centers on exposing a company that may be supplying Syria with chemical weapons. By romancing Angela (Monica Bellucci), an enigmatic woman who has ties to the company, he aims to expose the conspiracy and place him back in the good graces of his untrusting boss (Itzik Cohen).
Throwing a wrench into Aderath’s plans is Daniel (Itay Tiran), a laser focused operative who also questions Aderath’s motives and usefulness. Saddled with a doubting partner and a mission that may go sideways at a moment’s notice, Aderath may be setting himself up for failure.
The main attraction for this movie lies in Kingsley’s performance, and it’s a joy to watch Aderath gradually seduce each of the players involved in the operation. Aderath’s charm and seeming concern over Daniel (Aderath was close to Daniel’s late father) leads the operative to slowly break down his walls. Most human beings would probably be boxing out of their weight class if Monica Bellucci was their intended sparring partner, but Kingsley (and, in turn, Aderath) makes everything believable.
The spy thriller elements are standard fare, but that does not negate the film’s overall effectiveness. Spider in the Web’s strengths lies in its even handed accounting of the failures and successes of Aderath’s career. We may be witness to a man who comes to the realization that his use to his agency is over, and even his budding romance with Angela may be an actual misdirection (as Daniel points out, she may simply feel sorry for him).
Bellucci, whose own fire still burns bright almost twenty years after Malena, holds a tangible chemistry with Kingsley, and their coupling infuses the narrative with the right amount of aching melancholy (thankfully, this relationship doesn’t reach a maudlin level). Tiran is also memorable as the agent in need of a father figure, and his bond with Kingsley is also palpable.
Credit goes to Kingsley for keeping us guessing about what truly drives Aderath. Is he truly haunted by the ghosts of his past and does his seduction of Angela come from a real place? The answer isn’t clear as day, and director Eran Riklis refreshingly leaves those summations up to the viewer.
Refreshingly intimate and introspective to a fault, Spider in the Web may not have the fireworks of a tension filled thriller, but it succeeds on even more sublime level. If you want a bit of a personal touch to go with your spy stories, Spider in the Web definitely fits the bill.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Spider in the Web hits theaters (New York and Los Angeles) and VOD on Friday, August 30. To listen to my review of Spider in the Web check out the latest episode of CinemAddicts below. The Fanatic and Angel of Mine are also covered in the podcast: