The BBC have persuaded Linda Voss (Melanie Griffith) to speak about her wartime experiences, so she settles down in a studio in front of the cameras and begins her tale. The interviewer asks her when she first became interested in the Second World War, and she replies she was always entertained by spy and war movies, whether from the First or Second, but as her family were half Irish and half German-Jewish, she wished she could do something for her relatives still stuck in Nazi Germany. So it was she went to work as a secretary for one of the U.S. Government agencies when the conflict in Europe began brewing...
Shining Through was an example that no matter how much a film was critically lambasted, it would still find an audience if it came across as sincere enough, and to this day there are those who regarded its faltering attempts to conjure up the atmosphere of an authentic Hollywood World War II romantic thriller as perfectly reasonable in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Roger Ebert for one claimed it was the worst film he had seen that year, and the reviewers delighted in pointing out the idiotic dialogue such as "Mein Gott, you've got guts!" or "I knew it was Friday when we said goodbye because the next day was Saturday."
Not to mention the method Linda uses to convince her new boss that she is the perfect spy for him: she bakes him an apple strudel. Oh, and she can speak German too, but who could say no to a delicious strudel just like Melanie used to bake? Mind you, although a major part of the plot is about her bilingual talents, no matter how fluent she's meant to be she labours under a heavy American accent which would have seen her exposed within seconds. As if that were not bad enough, she relates her narration in such a stilted style that it's obvious it was written for her, yet also that it's possibly the first time she had ever clapped eyes on that part of the script. And there's a lot of narration here.
Based on Susan Isaacs' wartime potboiler throwback, Following - sorry, Shining Through evidently had a lot of cash thrown at it, but the results were just hopeless; even the propaganda-packed originals it paid tribute to were more convincing no matter how twinkly they got. Those were made to cheer the troops and buoy the mood of the population back home, or at least to remind them what they were fighting for, but this effort had no such excuse, apparently designed to appeal to those who liked to watch the afternoon matinee TV showings of the golden oldies over a cup of tea. The filmmakers shot themselves in the foot there: that audience would be only too aware that Linda's cinematic inspirations were entirely invented for the movie. Seriously, would any studio have made a movie in the forties where Cary Grant's tongue was cut out?!
Yet another example of bad taste posing as class in Shining Through, also including the scene where as this was the nineties and Michael Douglas was co-starring as Linda's boss, he and Griffith got to act out a sex scene, including a rather too good view of her silicone-enhanced poitrine. Anyway, Linda gets to Germany ostensibly to locate the plans of a doodlebug factory but also to track down her relatives who are in hiding, no matter that she has no spy training outside what would be necessary for a comic strip in Bunty, and that Douglas's Ed Leland character speaks no German whatsoever yet nevertheless manages to get by there as a spy himself. Joely Richardson showed up as a nice German, Sir John Gielgud was a contact getting about five minute's screen time but a decent paycheque, Liam Neeson was a nasty Nazi Linda becomes nanny for preposterously overlooking her blatant flaws, and yes, there were some hilarious bits here, the run for the border climax especially, but Mein Gott it didn't half drag on. Music by Michael Kamen.