Ashraf Marwan was many things: the son-in-law of Egypt’s President Nasser, a special adviser and confidant to his successor Anwar Sadat, and a spy for Israel during one of the most turbulent times in Middle Eastern relations. His movie-worthy adventures inspired Uri Bar-Joseph’s bestselling book “The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel,” and now they’re the stuff of an actual movie, care of Israeli director Ariel Vromen.
Set in the late ’60s, post-Six-Day War, “The Angel” follows Marwan (Marwan Kenzari, soon to be seen as Jafar in the live-action “Aladdin” movie) as he is pulled into an ongoing conflict between such powers as Israel, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, risking his own life in order to prevent yet another horrific conflict. And, yes, his code name was The Angel, and for apparently good reason.
The film has all the markers of a great spy feature, which was part of the draw for Vromen, best known to American audiences for his previous effort, “The Iceman,” but there’s much more to “The Angel” than just genre appeal
“I think spy movies always represent a betrayal story and the stakes are so high,” Vromen told IndieWire. “It’s a very interesting point of view to get into the political or militant arena and see it through the eyes of high-ranking personnel that needs to not only gather information, but risk his life to provide that information. … It makes a perfectly dramatic through-line for any kind of story.”
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Despite the splashy nature of the story, what really struck Vromen were Marwan’s motivations, which he maintains really were rooted in a deep desire for peace. “In researching what motivated Ashraf Marwan, I discovered one of his best friends, but not until late in production,” he said. “He told me that … in every business or arms deal and at every dinner party or social event, there was one word that came out of Ashraf until the day he died and that was ‘peace.’ He was always constantly seeking for peace in his life.”
For the filmmaker, that helped highlight a unique element to the film, that “this was not just a revenge story,” it was much more.
Check out IndieWire’s exclusive first trailer for “The Angel” below. Netflix will launch the film on September 14.