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The Spy Who Came In From The Cold  rating

Review: written 11th May 2013

A grimy monochrome antidote to Bond

It’s fascinating to put this film into its context – a black and white, grimy film peeling the lid off the unsavoury world of spycraft in the chill of the Cold War, with no gloss or even colour to leaven the mood. And this at the same time that the world was on a high in the 60’s on Connery’s glossiest Bonds, as well as spy mania proliferating in tv and books, highlighting glamour, humour and colour The highest rated TV series that year was Get Smart. Here though, Le Carre’s novel as put on film is more interested in damaged people and something more like the reality of spying.

Richard Burton gives an outstanding performance as Leamas, Burton playing the part of a man playing a part... though it’s fascinating to consider where the man ends and the part begins.. how much of that whiskey is for show? He is the spy who has just had a failure in Berlin, but not ready to come in from the cold. His bosses ask him to stay in the field for one more undercover op, all in gritty but excellent black and white photography. He does what he needs to do to seem ‘turnable’, as part of a scheme his handler has explained will help get rid of one of the top German agents… his journey of false information dissemination becomes one of self discovery as he starts to question just who is being used. His monologue near the end when he releases his true feelings about his profession makes you realise just how great an actor he could be, especially with this sort of deeply troubled and damaged character. Oskar Werner is simply mesmerising as the contact whom Leamas intends to manipulate, and Claire Bloom has a pivotal role that is utterly believable thanks to a note perfect performance that speaks much more than her words do.

It’s a simply told, unfussily shot gem full of nuances, with great performances and a compelling story.. not a moment is wasted, and each frame holds exactly what it needs to. and then it has an ending that is sure to have you talking or thinking long after the credits fade. It might not be uplifting, but it is nonetheless unmissable.


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