Eye of the Needle (film)

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Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Marquand
Produced by Stephen J. Friedman
Screenplay by Stanley Mann
Based on Eye of the Needle 
by Ken Follett
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Alan Hume
Kings Road Entertainment
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • July 24, 1981 (1981-07-24) (USA)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $17,583,634

Eye of the Needle is a 1981 American spy film directed by Richard Marquand and starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan. Based on the novel of the same title by Ken Follett, the film is about a German spy in England during World War II who discovers vital information about the upcoming D-Day invasion. In his attempt to return to Germany with the information, he travels to the isolated Storm Island off the coast of Scotland to meet up with a U-boat, but his plans are thwarted by a young woman and her legless husband. The Storm Island scenes were shot over eight weeks on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides.[1]


A man calling himself Henry Faber is actually "the Needle," a German spy in England bearing critical information on Allied invasion plans that he must deliver personally to the Führer. He's so named because of his preferred method of assassination, the stiletto. He is a coldly calculating sociopath, emotionlessly focused on the task at hand, whether the task is to signal a U-boat or to gut a witness to avoid exposure.

On his way back to Germany, a fierce storm strands him on Storm Island, occupied only by a woman named Lucy (Kate Nelligan), her disabled husband, their son, and their shepherd, Tom. A romance develops between the woman and the spy, due to an estrangement of affections between Lucy and her husband, whose accident has rendered him emotionally crippled as well.

The love affair suggests there's a sympathetic personality buried somewhere inside the Nazi spy, though he remains enigmatic. Early on, we discover that he may not enjoy the hand life has dealt him. When a courier asks him about the way he lives, and "What else can one do?" the Needle answers, "One can just stop."

Lucy realizes that her lover has been lying after she discovers her husband's dead body. "The Needle" must get to Tom's radio in time to report to his superiors the exact location of the D-Day invasion. Lucy is the Allies' last chance. He is reluctant to harm her, but she has no such qualms and shoots him as he tries to escape in a boat. Additional footage tells of Faber's activities four years before and of David's accident, while another ending finds Lucy receiving help from British Intelligence.



  • The DKW Munga vehicle shown on the island was not built until the 1950s.
  • The enclosed-cabin helicopter that is briefly shown toward the end of the film presents an anachronism. Some of the location filming was shot at Blackbushe Airport Yateley.


  1. ^ Hume, Alan; Owen, Gareth (2004). A Life Through the Lens: Memoirs of a Film Cameraman. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 130. ISBN 9780786418039. 

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