The Counterfeit Traitor is a dramatized version of a book, which itself was a true story. In Stockholm in 1942, naturalized American-born Swede Eric Erickson finds out that he has been put on a US blacklist for "trading with the enemy". As he's faced with this unappetizing mark on his record, British Intelligence makes contact with him and promises him they will get his name off the list after the war so as to retroactively remove the black mark. He just has to do one teensy little thing first
This film contains examples of:
- Dirty Business:
- Eric has to purposely alienate a Jewish friend of his as a test run for his apparent dislike of the British and changing allegiances. Fortunately (!) it works, and that gets the ball rolling for the events in the film.
- Marianne is less forthcoming, but indicates she has had to do some unsavory things in her career as a spy.
- Chekhov's Gun: There appears to be a throwaway line about Eric's dental records early in the film. As it turns out, when Eric needs help from a deep cover agent in Germany, he is authenticated using those records.
- Fake Defector: The premise of the film, of course. Erickson manages to do his job rather well, alienating most of his former friends and social club fellows while managing to get close to high German officials in and out of the Reich.
- Femme Fatale Spy: Frau Marianne Moellendorf, to Eric's surprise, turns out to be the British agent in Berlin.
- I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That:
- Oldenbourg invokes this when Eric openly admits he's working with the Allies.
- Invoked when Eric's Jewish friend realizes Eric's behavior is probably not motivated out of genuine spite or malice; he writes a letter in which he tells Eric, "I shall consider our friendship only temporarily suspended".
- Kick the Dog: Given that Eric has to travel throughout Nazi Germany, he no doubt has witnessed these moments. One which the film shows, is how the Nazis deal with a sit-down strike. The Polish indentured workers want better food. The Gestapo dispense with the niceties and kill one of them as an example to the rest.
- Magnificent Bastard: Eric becomes this as he picks up some of the necessary tricks of an espionage agent, in one case convincing a Gestapo agent in Sweden - who has been apparently taking bribes by cashing what he thought were legitimate gambling wins from the checks Eric wrote - that the Allies have no problem "burning" him to the Gestapo if Eric gets busted. The moment of awesome comes in Eric's parting shot: "You didn't honestly think I was that bad a bridge player, did you?"
- Male Gaze: There are a few scenes in this film in which the men openly ogle women and make it clear which body part their eyes are caressing.
- Overt Rendezvous: Eric has to occasionally contact people in public gatherings. As one example, in the guise of an extramarital affair, Marianne and Eric exchange vital intelligence while appearing to be hitting on each other at a party hosted by Albert Speer and Joseph Goebbels, no less.
- Private Eye Monologue: This method of exposition is used to provide insight into what the main character (Erickson) is thinking or doing at the time by describing his thoughts or reasons for doing things. As this film is not Film Noir, there are also elements of Lemony Narrator as well.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Eric starts out at the "cynic" end of things, but later, motivated in part by Marianne's far more idealistic motives for spying for the Allies, he moves to the idealistic end himself.
- The Chessmaster: Gilbert aka "Dallas". By making sure Erickson knows he has a recording of their first little chat, he has his bases covered should Erickson balk at what he does. He also instructs Erickson on the general path to take in ingratiating himself to German officials.