Israeli National Hero and Mossad Spy Eli Cohen Makes Headlines; Movie Prepped for 50th Anniversary Re-Release
June 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of 1967’s Six Day War, a watershed moment in the history of modern Israel. In recognition of the anniversary, Janson Media today announced the re-release of the made-for-television movie, The Impossible Spy. The HBO/BBC drama tells the true story of an Israeli civilian who was recruited into Israel’s Secret Intelligence Agency to become a spy in Damascus, where he spent years infiltrating the Syrian political establishment. Israel’s national hero, Eli Cohen, successfully entered the upper echelons of the Syrian government as a double-agent. The secrets he obtained became crucial in Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. A portrait of spies and spying that is as chilling as it is compelling, and as riveting as any James Bond adventure. The legendary Elie Cohen was persuaded to become a secret agent and ended up leading a double life — as a mild-mannered husband and father in Israel, and as a wealthy businessman who infiltrated the highest levels of the Syrian government. Incredibly, Cohen was so successful that he was nominated to be the Defense Minister of Syria. The story begins in 1959. Cohen was a family man leading a quiet, normal life working as an accountant in Tel Aviv when at the age of 35 he was recruited by Israel’s Mossad secret service and assigned a mission that would forever change his life, and the history of Israel.
Today Cohen is regarded in Israel as a legend and national hero. John Shea (Missing, Baby M, Ladykiller, The New Adventures of Superman) delivers a riveting performance as the daring double-agent whose mission took him from Argentina, where he established a new identity as a wealthy Syrian businessman, to Damascus. Risking his life at every turn, Cohen’s guile and fluency in Arabic enabled him to climb to the upper echelons of the Syrian government and gain access to the most vital secrets of their military machine. Incredibly successful, he was nominated to be the Defense Minister of Syria. Eli Wallach (Baby Doll, The Magnificent Seven, Tough Guys) co-stars as the head of the Mossad in this explosive account of intrigue and espionage in the volatile Middle East.
The Impossible Spy was a co-production of HBO in the USA and the BBC in the United Kingdom, and was first broadcast in 1987. The movie was recognized with five ACE Award nominations. The film was produced by Graham Massey and David Goldstein, and directed by Jim Goddard, with a screenplay written by Marty Ross. Harvey Chertok was the film’s executive producer.
Today’s announcement also marks the new discovery and internet release by Syrian rebels of never-before-seen film footage of the execution of Eli Cohen. Cohen’s body has been sought by the government of Israel for over five decades. The story made headlines in Israel, where Cohen is revered as a national hero, and often referred to as “our man in Damascus.” The footage had been filmed by official Syrian government television in 1965. The government of Syrian today continues to keep Cohen’s burial site a state secret.
“The Impossible Spy is a first-rate film that is genuinely based on truth,” wrote film reviewer Leonard Maltin. “It’s a story that no one could make up. John Shea stars as Eli Cohen, Israel’s real-life James Bond who had amazing success spying in Syria in the 1960s which helped Israel win the June 1967 Six-Day War. And, Eli Wallach co-stars as the Head of Israel’s intelligence agency. This is a suspense-filled drama that figures so importantly in the history of Israel.”
“A marvelous film told in the grand tradition of a John Le Carre novel. Shea is simply terrific in the role of Eli Cohen. This is a top-notch thriller made all the more so by its factual basis,” said the Chicago Sun-Times The New York Times called it “a portrait of spies and spying that is as chilling as it is compelling.” The Wall Street Journal said “not every true story makes a movie as riveting as this one.”
The Impossible Spy is available on DVD, and can now be streamed and downloaded from Amazon Video platforms in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany. Janson Media is in discussions with the BBC, several American pay-cable networks and television channels in Israel about a 50th anniversary broadcast of the film in June of 2017.