Gripping grit, with a perfect performance from Burton, before Liz and alcohol robbed him of his center.
Spying is a grim, desperate business that is at once boring and exciting, with dirty work behind the scenes and hardly any derring-do. This superb adaptation of John Le Carre's novel artfully conveys that sense. Audiences must have preferred the more glamorous spies like James Bond because this
film, which was one of the best ever made on the subject, failed to gather much interest at the box office. Produced and directed by Martin Ritt in Ireland and England, with some second-unit lensing in Europe, the film stars Richard Burton as a burnt-out case, a man who is looking forward to
getting out of the spy game and retiring from British Intelligence. Just before he is to leave, Burton is called back to London and put on the carpet. It seems that several of his sub-agents have been caught by Van Eyck, who is Burton's counterpart on the East Berlin side. Van Eyck is a former
Nazi who has taken over as chief of operations for the Communists, and his handiwork is putting a crimp in the British operations. Since it is well known that Burton is tired of what he's doing, Burton's boss, Cusack, gives him his final assignment. He is to masquerade as a drunk who wants to
defect to the East Germans. If it works and Burton gets inside the Communist operations, he can find out if there is a "mole" in their own organization as well as get the goods on what's happening inside the East German operation.
There are no gimmicks, no fast cars that turn into airplanes, no weapons that fire lasers, just a tense battle of wits shot in stark black and white. The title refers to the time when an outside spy has to "come in from the cold" and take a sedentary job as another spy's control or even some
menial desk assignment until the mandatory age limit forces retirement. Only Graham Greene has come close to Le Carre in detailing the emotional drudgery of the espionage world.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Gripping grit, with a perfect performance from Burton, before Liz and alcohol robbed him of his center. Spying is a grim, desperate business that is at once boring and exciting, with dirty work behind the scenes and hardly any derring-do. This superb adap… (more)