This is to my mind the most brilliant of all of Garbo's silent films, and I never fully understood the attitude of most critics who simply dismiss it on the account of the Divine Woman's own lack of care for this particular entry. True, she did not like just doing this film, and true, Mauritz Stiller was actually dying while she was shooting this, therefore, we can understand that she thought poorly of it; yet this was shot at the peak of silent filmmmaking, in 1928, and never before had Fred Niblo been so good, never had his full command of the motion picture been so obvious. All through the film, the direction is superb, subdued and subtle, while the gorgeous settings, MGM's trademark, are lit and photographed at their best. Niblo makes the best of his composition skills, with or without Garbo in the shots, and the way he deals with the extras, putting the stars in the distance, swallowed by the crowd, is clearly an innovation for 1928; his use of a few, but decisive shots based on a moving camera proves that, like the European imports(Murnau, Leni, Fejos, Christensen) or like his fellow Americans (Ford, Borzage,Wellman), he was aware of the German experiments. Of course, the spy story is not the source of any intellect-expanding masterpiece, but, hey, this is a stylish and entertaining film that foreshadows some of Hitchcpock's best British films of the decade to come. And Niblo even handles suspense in a remarkable way in the last five minutes.
The edition id remarkable, the print being a bit worn but still clear; and an emasculating restoration has been avoided, retaining thus the crystal-clear, crisp quality of William Daniel's photography. And to conclude, a question about Garbo: who else on earth could wear these dresses and get away with it?