John Preston is a British agent with the task of preventing the Russians detonating a nuclear explosion next to an American base in the UK. The Russians are hoping this will shatter the 'special relationship' between the two countries.
Former British secret agent Harry Palmer now runs a Private Investigation company in Russia. He gets a job to locate and recover a consignment of stolen Plutonium, and with the help of ... See full summary »
A number of leading Western scientists have been kidnapped only to reappear a fews days later. Unfortunately, each scientist has been brainwashed and is now completely useless. The British send their agent, Harry Palmer, to investigate. Palmer is surprised to be selected for such a mission (considering his past) and believes he has been chosen because he is expendable. Written by
Dave Jenkins <email@example.com>
When Harry makes his coffee in a French press during the opening credits, he pours in the hot water and immediately pushes the plunger without waiting the standard three or four minutes. His coffee would be so weak that he couldn't possibly wake up. See more »
[Courtney has found a gun in Palmer's apartment]
You know this is unauthorised.
My mother gave it to me for Christmas.
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An enjoyable (if slow) espionage tale with added digs at the UK's management structure
When eminent British scientist Dr Radcliffe is kidnapped off a train in broad daylight, the Secret Service make the super spy known only as 'Bluejay' their number one priority with Radcliffe being the 17th scientist to go missing. With the boost in manpower, Harry Palmer finds himself taken off surveillance duties and put into a new unit under Major Dalby to find Radcliffe and capture Bluejay. Never one for following the rules, Palmer struggles to keep up to date with his paperwork while trying to make progress in the mission the bureaucracy making his job as hard as the opposite side. However soon he makes progress and finds himself drawn into a deadly web involving treachery, American agents and a plan to 'brain drain' the UK and weaken its powers.
Although it has dated in some regards, The Ipcress File stands up well as a sort of answer to the Bond ideal of the British Secret Service. While it is much more fun to have a series of slick action moves and fantasy plots, this film's focus on structure and managers is much more realistic (one assumes) and also allows for a solid, if unspectacular, story but also some amusing digs at the civil service. The plot moves slowly but is still an engaging thriller even if it slowly unfolds rather than explodes along while this may put off many who prefer things to go 'bang' every few minutes I found it to be enjoyable and quite engaging. On top of this the film pokes fun at the UK civil service with a great deal of relish (but not sticking out as doing so). I have worked in a council and a Government funded charity and can confirm that this aspect of the film has not dated the UK still is very much to do with paperwork and having all the forms filled in correctly, for example tried to fill in any tax forms lately?! The film makes good sport of this aspect of Palmer's job and shows the fussy management structure of his department as being almost as much of a threat to national security as Bluejay himself is!
The cast is pretty good but it is Michael Caine's film all the way. He is suitably acerbic in his wit and has the browbeaten look many of us get when we feel we are being stopped from 'doing our jobs' by having to spend too much time filling in forms! However, while also still making this point, Caine still makes Palmer effective enough for the audience to get behind him and still see him as a spy and the fact that Caine always brings his own screen presence to the role helps as well. Support is also good from Green, Doleman, Gatliff and Jackson but Caine is the one you'll remember.
Overall this is not a great film but it is a good one. When viewed alongside other spy thrillers this one will appear very slow but I still found the story to be enjoyable if low key. The portrayal of the civil service as one of paperwork and managers adds a nice layer to a story that is already pretty good in its own right. Not to everyone's taste and it helps if you can appreciate Palmer's situation but it is a good espionage tale that rewards patience with a good story that is happily lacking in Hollywood excesses and empty spectacle.
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