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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A cash-in on Len Deighton's bestseller, but still a great movie.
Having read the novel, I can tell you that this film follows the book even less than most so-called film adaptations. Even secret agent Harry Palmer's incarceration in what he thinks is Eastern Europe has many differences to the version in the book. The novel includes scenes in Lebanon and an American Pacific base, while this film takes place entirely in London.
At one stage, Deighton's unnamed anti-hero even states that `my name isn't Harry'.
That said this is still a brilliant Cold War drama and the film does retain elements of Deighton's novel: his world of espionage is one of draughty back street offices, red tape and limited budgets. When he is told that he is being transferred to another intelligence unit, one of Palmer's first questions is if he will get any more money. There is also the rivalry between intelligence departments and with the Americans: people working together with gritted teeth rather than devoted camaraderie against a common enemy.
Michael Caine is well cast as cockney Army Sergeant Harry Palmer, a gourmet anti-hero caught up in the Great Game of espionage because the alternative was prison. As well as a smug and double-dealing enemy like Erik Grantby (Frank Gatliff), Palmer has to cope with bureaucracy, a measly pay and distrusting superiors like Major Dalby (Nigel Green) and Colonel Ross (Guy Doleman).
Although made by the same people who produced the James Bond films, this could not be more different. In contrast to Bond's life as a millionaire playboy, Palmer lives in an East End flat, has to do his own shopping and cooking, has limited resources and budgets and never-ending paperwork.
Gordon Jackson also lends good support as Jock Carswell, the only fellow agent whom Palmer can trust or likes; Jean Courtney (Sue Lloyd) has an affair with Palmer, but is really keeping tabs on him. In the original novel Carswell is another bureaucrat a la Dalby and Ross for whom the unnamed narrator has little time for. Jackson's character is actually based on Carswell's assistant Murray.
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