Tag Archives: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

A Week In Film #483: Safely on the board

Safe House

Semi-retread of Three Days Of The Condor, with junior CIA dogsbody Ryan Reynolds dragged into a shady conspiracy. Inconsequential, watchable action fluff from Daniel Espinosa.

Same ball park as Toast but not as wittily executed. Julian Barratt is a has-been actor best-known for playing the lead in a crappy 80s detective show who tries to relive his glory days by running around the Isle of Man hunting down an escaped madman. Written by Barratt and fellow cast member Simon Farnaby, directed by Sean Foley.


Another outing for L.A. Takedown v2.0.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Martin Ritt’s peerless le Carré adaptation, with Richard Burton as burned out ex-intelligence officer Alec Leamas our tethered goat.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Not as good as the hype seemed to suggest, but certainly very watchable. Definitely a black comedy rather than a drama. Written and directed by my second favourite filmmaking McDonagh. Good cast – Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage.

9 Rota title screen
9 Rota AKA 9th Company
‘The Russian Platoon’ and all that – bunch of kids conscripted into the army are swiftly dehumanised by the brutality of war (here Afghanistan rather than Viet Nam). Of course, we have our grizzled veteran NCOs to help lick them into shape, etc. Flag-waving, bombastic guff from Fedor Bondarchuk, but not without a professional gleam.

Battle Of Britain

Rousing stuff from Guy Hamilton, with never-bettered aerial sequences.

Freeway: Crack In The System

Fierce documentary from Marc Levin about Freeway Rick Ross, the man apocryphally said to have caused the crack epidemic in America.

The Bone Collector

Silly hunt-the-serial-killer shenanigans, with paralysed forensics boffin teaming up with rookie beat cop Angelina Jolie to catch a trophy-keeping psycho in New York. Dreck rather than dross from Phillip Noyce.

A Week In Film #301: Keep ‘em comin’

Animal Kingdom title screen
Animal Kingdom
Excellent, scary, nervous take on the fallout from the Walsh Street Shootings and Melbourne crime family the Pettingills from director David Michod. Ben Medelsohn, as psycho primus inter pares brother Pope, looms large over everything in the dysfunctional Cody household; Sullivan Stapleton and Luke Ford as younger brothers Craig and Darren are good, Jacki Weaver is perfect as ineffectual matriarch Smurf, whilst James Frecheville as the abandoned cousin J, washed ashore on Devil’s Island, pretty much carries the emotional weight of the film. Oh, and a strong turn from Guy Pearce as a cop.

Snake Eyes title screen
Snake Eyes
Not a classic movie by any means, but one of Brian De Palma’s most fun flicks, with Nic Cage as a charismatically bent(ish) Atlantic City cop in whose lap lands a clusterfuck of a case on fight night. Ridiculously long tracking shots, a femme fatale, unnaturalistic boxing scenes, macguffins galore, crazy bird’s eye overview shots – it’s a silly but thoroughly enjoyable Hitch pastiche thriller.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold title screen
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Martin Ritt’s was the first adaptation to accurately transplant Le Carre’s spy novel style onto film – and with a cast that includes Richard Burton (going method as a sot), Claire Bloom as the patsy, Oskar Werner and Peter van Eyck as faction-fighting East German spymasters, as well as noir-influenced photography from Oswald Morris, it remains a downbeat and miserable pleasure.

A Week In Film #061: Back to the grind

Les Femmes De L’Ombre
A fascinating premise – French SOE agents parachuted back to their motherland to carry out an audacious rescue of a British spy in the run-up to D-Day – but sadly a poor execution.

Fine actors (Sophie Marceau, Julie Depardieu, Marie Gillain, Déborah François) are wasted playing undeveloped characters which are barely functional clichés designed to represent different facets of la résistance (Gaullist, Catholic etc). Moritz Bleibtreu is quite enjoyable as a sadistic SS investigator, but it’s no patch on things like Carve Her Name With Pride, Is Paris Burning?, Atentat or even Charlotte Gray. For some reason it feels tonally similar to Inglourious Basterds, but again it is the inferior piece.

D.C. Sniper: 23 Days Of Fear
A reasonably gripping fast turnaround TV movie about the ‘Beltway Sniper’ duo who killed ten people in under a month back in 2002 (and possibly another eleven beforehand). Charles S Dutton is an effective suburban police chief, but Bobby Hosea is chilling as John Allen Muhammad, whose motive seems to be to create a terrorism-inspired smokescreen so he can kill his ex-wife and regain custody of his kids.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
John Le Carré’s first stone-cold classic espionage novel earns its first stone-cold classic film treatment, with leftish Hollywood stalwart Martin Ritt at the helm. Richard Burton is grizzled, burned out agent-runner Alex Leamas, now a pawn between his own bosses and the East German spy chief.

Whilst this adaptation loses much of the nuance of the novel, it retains the essence, and provides a platform for some excellent performances from the likes of Cyril Cusack, Oskar Werner, Peter van Eyck and George Voskovec. I’m not so sure Claire Bloom – Burton’s sparring partner in Look Back In Anger – quite captures the Liz of the book, but she certainly is believable, in a different way, as the screen version.