Any directorial career that includes both Seconds (1966) and The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) features more ups and downs than most, and with Ronin, John Frankenheimer announced a comeback. Exploring the territory of international espionage, it compensates for the familiarity of its material by doing just about everything right. A gripping, deliberately paced opening sequence perfectly sets the mood, capturing the uneasy peace of post-Cold War Europe with creepy effectiveness. The rest of the film runs with the notion, developing its vivid, weary characters and terse dialogue between well-staged action sequences. Frankenheimer films car chases as if he'd just invented the concept and David Mamet's pseudonymous script blows his gift for portraying con artistry up to an international scale. A memorable, thoughtful thriller cast to perfection and shot through with the chill of political unease and the knowledge of how easy it is to bargain away one's soul, it provided a late-career peak for a director who had something to prove.
by Keith Phipps review