Inspired by remarkable true events but has remained an untold story, A Call to Spy follows three little-known female heroes of WWII who put their lives on the line in the quest for freedom.
In the beginning of WWII, with Britain becoming desperate, Churchill hastily orders his new spy agency — Special Operations Executive (SOE) — to recruit and train women as spies. Their daunting mission: conduct sabotage and build a resistance.
SOE’s “spymistress,” Vera Atkins (played by Stana Katic) recruits two unusual candidates: Virginia Hall (played Sarah Megan Thomas) and Noor Inayat Khan (played by Radhika Atpe). American-born Virginia works at the US Embassy in London and longs to fulfil her career as a diplomat. On receiving yet another rejection letter to join the service due to her reliance on a wooden leg, Virginia willingly accepts Vera’s invitation.
Noor, daughter of a British mother and Indian father, is SOE’s most exceptional wireless operator. She too jumps at the chance to join the new club. They and several other women submit to training in techniques ranging from sabotage, how to wield weapons and morse code, alongside their male counterparts.
Hall is sent to France first using code name, Brigitte. She is highly effective and quickly establishes her network of resistance fighters and safe houses. But the service of a wireless operator to ferry messages back to HQ, would substantially give her the edge. Noor is sent in, rather a little underprepared than Hall, but very soon she is doing what she does best and providing intel back to London and support on the ground.
It’s not long until Brigitte’s exploits come to the attention of the Gestapo and she is being hounded across France. Her only chance is to scale the Pyrenees Mountains for a safe return to London. Noor is on the run, transmitting from and sleeping where she can. A chance meeting with a very old friend, at least allows her a few days’ respite living under her friends roof. That will all too soon become compromised.
Miraculously, Hall returns to London and her reports to leadership for enhancing protection methods for agents seemingly fall on deaf ears. It is only when Hall is later involved in the 1944 D-Day operation, that her advice is given the light of day.
The continuing importance of the film’s historical characters is underscored by the additional recognition recently given to them. Virginia Hall is the subject of three 2019 biographies. Her prosthesis, Cuthbert, is named on the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to OSS (precursor to CIA). Noor Inayat Khan was recently commemorated with Britain’s prestigious Blue Plaque.
A Call to Spy opens in cinemas today. Check your local guides for screening times.
About A Call to Spy
Running time: 123 mins
Directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher
Written by Sarah Megan Thomas
Stars Sarah Megan Thomas, Stana Katic, Radhika Apte, Linus Roache, Rossif Sutherland