Based on an intriguing 1932 autobiography of R.H. Bruce Lockhart, who worked for the British Secret Service during the tumultuous days of the Russian Revolution in 1917. British-Hungarian actor Leslie Howard plays British agent Locke, whose main task is to prevent the Bolsheviks, led by Stalin, from signing a separate treaty with the Germans, embroiled in a war on two fronts. By chance Locke meets Elena, Lenin's attractive secretary and also a spy (played by the feisty Kay Francis) on the night of the first revolution, and they are both instantly smitten.
Michael Curtiz (born Manó Kaminer in Austro-Hungarian Budapest) wastes no time however on romantic shenanigans. Instead, his direction is balanced and fast-paced, presenting a suspenseful political drama that portrays convincingly the life of spies during times of historical upheaval. Quite unusually, British Agent shows an understanding of the ideologies on both sides.