This is a superior John le Carre novel filmed by Sidney Lumet with an interesting international cast: James Mason, Simone Signoret, Maximilian Schell, Harriet Andersson, Harry Andrews, and Lynn Redgrave. The downbeat spy story captures the mood that made TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY so
popular 15 years later. It's also of interest technically because Lumet experimented with "flashing" techniques, exposing the film stock before shooting to give it unusually subdued color. These techniques later became common.
This gritty, moody film is a superb but overlooked entry in the spy genre. Charles Dobbs (James Mason) is a security agent who okays clearance for Samuel Fennan (Robert Flemyng), a top-level official who has been accused of communist activities. When Fennan apparently commits suicide, Dobbs checks
into the death and grows suspicious of Elsa Fennan (Simone Signoret), the dead man's widow. Before he can probe too deeply, however, he is taken off the case. Rather than bend to pressure from his superiors, Dobbs resigns, enlists the aid of some fellow agents, and sets out to solve Fennan's
murder. Complicating matters is the arrival of Dieter Frey (Maximilian Schell), an agent who is a former friend of Dobbs and is preparing to run off with Dobbs's wife Ann (Harriet Andersson). Though Dobbs is weary of the espionage game, he finds himself more thoroughly enmeshed in it than he has
The complex plot is actually just a structure to support an insightful look into the lives of these characters. Mason is excellent as a man who knows the spy game for what it is, but still finds himself caught in its machinations. He gets admirable support from Schell, Andersson, and especially
Signoret. Lumet's taut direction creates a film that is memorably atmospheric. Le Carre specialized in stripping the movie-fed illusion of glitz and glamour away from the world of espionage to reveal a grim unrewarding milieu where there are no heroes and villains, only people trapped in confusing
webs of intrigue and turmoil.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This is a superior John le Carre novel filmed by Sidney Lumet with an interesting international cast: James Mason, Simone Signoret, Maximilian Schell, Harriet Andersson, Harry Andrews, and Lynn Redgrave. The downbeat spy story captures the mood that made T… (more)