Espionage thrillers are not as easy to make as they seem. Their success generally lies in keeping the audience off-balance, in setting up twists and turns that come close to losing the audience but that at the last minute pull the audience back in. In order for this to work, all of the ingredients have to be just right -- a carefully-plotted screenplay can be damaged by a bad director, the wrong actor, or even poor set design or unimaginative cinematography. The Little Drummer Girl is a good thriller that could have been much better, had the elements been a little more aligned. The script is good, with the requisite thrills and hard-edged dialogue. But George Roy Hill's direction is just adequate, never making the material as exciting as it should be. More problematic is Diane Keaton, who does an acceptable job but is essentially miscast. Without the proper actress anchoring the film, it loses a great deal of believability. Fortunately, the rest of the cast is good, with Klaus Kinski exceptional, and the basic story is engrossing. Drummer Girl never shines, but it glimmers enough to make it worth watching.
by Craig Butler review