10 Underrated Espionage Movies of the 2010s Worth Revisiting
Maybe these movies aren't talked about much anymore, but that doesn't mean they are any less great because of it.
1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
In this intricate spy thriller set during the Cold War, Gary Oldman stars as George Smiley, a forced-retired MI6 agent who is pulled back into the game to uncover a Soviet mole within the organization.
The story unveils a web of secrets, betrayals, and covert operations. Smiley, with his calm demeanor, uses his intellect and methodical methods to sift through complex connections and deceitful allies. Aided by younger agent Peter Guillam, they venture into the murky waters of Cold War espionage, where trust is a luxury and betrayal is a constant shadow.
2. Safe House (2012)
Ryan Reynolds is Matt Weston, a young CIA agent, overseeing a safe house in Cape Town. Enter Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), a notorious rogue operative apprehended after years on the run.
Suddenly, the safe house is attacked by mercenaries seeking Frost. Weston and Frost, the unlikely duo, find themselves on the run through the streets of Cape Town, unraveling a conspiracy that traces back to the top echelons of the CIA.
It's action-packed, riddled with twists, as Weston grapples with his naivety and Frost's enigmatic maneuvers.
3. A Most Wanted Man (2014)
Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a compelling performance as Günther Bachmann, a German intelligence officer tracking a Chechen refugee suspected of terrorist affiliations.
This isn't your typical action-packed spy drama; it's a cat-and-mouse game, where manipulation and intelligence reign supreme. Bachmann's team employs unconventional tactics, immersing themselves in the gray world of espionage where friends can be enemies. As alliances shift and secrets come to light, Bachmann is forced to make moral compromises in the name of national security.
4. Atomic Blonde (2017)
Charlize Theron is Lorraine Broughton, a top-level MI6 agent sent to Berlin during the Cold War's final days. Her mission: recover a list of double agents before it falls into the wrong hands. Navigating a city charged with political unrest, she partners with David Percival (James McAvoy), a fellow agent with questionable motives.
It's a world filled with deceit, betrayal, and intense combat – Lorraine's ice-cold demeanor and combat skills are put to the test as she confronts an intricate web of espionage where allies are indistinguishable from enemies.
5. Closed Circuit (2013)
This British political thriller pulls Eric Bana into the role of Martin Rose, a defense attorney defending a terrorist suspect accused of setting off a market explosion in London. Alongside Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), a special advocate and Martin's former lover, they unravel a conspiracy that extends into the British legal system and MI5.
As they dig deeper, their lives are put in jeopardy. In a world of CCTV and constant surveillance, their every move is watched, and trust becomes a weapon as dangerous as the foes they face.
6. Haywire (2011)
Mallory Kane, played by Gina Carano, is not your average contract operative. Working for a government security contractor, she's betrayed and left for dead by someone in her own team during a mission.
In a plot charged with pulse-raising combat sequences and thrilling chases, Mallory uses her elite skills to evade her betrayers, forcing her into a game of cat and mouse where the hunter becomes the hunted. As she seeks to unveil the truth, audiences are thrown into a whirlwind of betrayals and ulterior motives, proving that in the world of espionage, your deadliest enemy can often be your closest ally.
7. The November Man (2014)
Pierce Brosnan returns to the spy world, not as Bond, but as Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA operative pulled back for one last mission. The task seems straightforward – extract a deep cover operative who holds key information tied to a Russian presidential candidate with sinister intentions. However, Devereaux soon finds himself a target, entangled in a conspiracy that leads to a showdown with his former pupil, Mason.
It's a story of mentor versus protege, uncovering a trail of deception that suggests that the real enemy may be closer to home.
8. Red Sparrow (2018)
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Egorova, a former ballerina forced into the 'sparrow' program by the Russian government to become a seductive and deceptive weapon. Her first target is a CIA agent, Nate Nash, portrayed by Joel Edgerton. Nash is handling the CIA's most coveted asset – a mole within the Russian ranks.
A complex relationship develops between Dominika and Nash, weaving a tale that blurs the lines between allies and adversaries. As Dominika struggles to reconcile her training with her identity, audiences are ensnared in a thrilling ballet of manipulation and unexpected alliances.
9. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Chris Pine steps into the iconic role of Jack Ryan, breathing life into Tom Clancy's legendary character in a story that isn't derived directly from the author's works. Ryan is a young covert CIA analyst who uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack. Partnering with his handler, Harper (Kevin Costner), Ryan is catapulted from the safety of his desk job into the field.
The film weaves through the intricate world of financial espionage, combining the thrill of combat with the sophistication of economic warfare, presenting a refreshing divergence from typical action-dominated narratives.
10. Unlocked (2017)
Noomi Rapace plays Alice Racine, a CIA interrogator who unwittingly becomes involved in a cat-and-mouse chase when she gets duped into providing information to terrorists.
The plot unfolds a race against time as Racine, with the aid of her mentor (Michael Douglas) and an MI5 agent (Orlando Bloom), dives into a world rife with intrigue, betrayal, and hidden agendas to prevent a biological attack in London. The ticking clock intensifies the stakes, drawing audiences into a high-stakes world where every decision is crucial, and every ally is a potential foe.