The Spy Who Came In From The Cold DVD
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Directed by Martin Ritt
Produced in 1965
Main Language - ENGLISH
Countries & Regions - British Film
This is a cold war espionage film of the highest class. Burton plays Leamas, station head in Berlin, powerless to prevent his agents losing their lives. Control (Cyril Cusack) asks him back to London and wonders if he should 'come in from the cold', then invites him to stay out in it, just for a little longer. He says, 'Our work is based on the single assumption that the West is never going to be the aggressor. Thus, we do disagreeable things, but we're defensive. Our policies are peaceful, but our methods can't afford to be less ruthless than those of the opposition.' So begins a section of elisions and uncertainty over Leamas's actions, which is the last I'll say about the plot. If you don't know it, it's fiendish in its poker-faced machinations.
Burton's presence is magnetic - but not at the expense of the overall atmosphere of the film, which is one of shabby existential torpor. He plays a man who has been too long in a world where the only loyalty is to expediency. Ever-watchful, at points his self-composed stillness explodes into a snarling intensity. Spies are 'a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me' he says. Claire Bloom plays the earnest, perkily innocent librarian who gets drawn into his connections. There's no glamour here though - his is a world of smoky boozers and rain, the labour exchange and tinned tomato soup from the corner shop.
Other elements of the film maintain the atmosphere. Oswald Morris's camera roams softly around, laying out the geography of offices, cells and the puddly courtyards with an oily darkness to their ground. Sol Kaplan's score is sparing and appropriate; often though there is no sound at all except the quietness of a room in which two people try to second-guess each other. Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper's screenplay, from John le Carré’s source novel of the same name, is a masterclass with barely a word wasted. By the end of the film even the most casual of asides have assumed terrible retrospective meaning.
Graeme Hobbs on 6th October 2006
Author of 277 reviews
This adaptation from John le Carre’s novel perfectly captures the rather seedy, down-at-heel atmosphere of Cold War espionage and also features one of Richard Burton’s best performances as the apparently washed-up spy Leamas. The back-up cast is particularly strong too – Michael Hordern, Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner and Cyril Cusack among others, all at the service of the film’s atmosphere. The film features a fantastically tight script too with not a word wasted.
Length: 112 mins
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 6th November 2006
Cat No: PHE9101
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