Based on real events which saw two lighthouse keepers stranded for months at sea in a freak storm, the film tells a tale of death, madness and isolation; a desolate trip into the heart of human darkness.
Mark Lewis Jones,
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When Arthur Davis, a junior bachelor in the British secret service's African section, is seen taking a file with him -to meet his girlfriend Cynthia- the brass fears he may be the leak to Moskow, and allows Dr. Percival to terminate the 'risk factor' by poisoning to avoid a scandal. In fact Davis's desk chief, Maurice Castle, is the double agent since the South African communists helped him smuggle out his black lover Sarah M., meanwhile his wife and mother of schoolboy Sam, to force him to cooperate with the Apartheid government. When Cornelius Muller, the South African official who failed to get him in Pretoria's power, visits London for the anti-communist operation Uncle Remus, he points out Castle still is the natural suspect... Written by
This is an odd film. 'Low-key' is certainly an apt description, and though I don't agree, I can see why some have dismissed it as flat, tedious, etc.
It has stayed in my mind after each viewing - I've seen it twice now on television - more than many other more critically praised films. There's something about the deliberate underplaying, the bland, familiar suburbia of the leading character's house, the politeness, the dog.... The film shows us a non-dramatic world in which dramatic events are being played out in secret, under cover of banal normality. It recalls the hurried departures of Kim Philby and friends from their own domestic lives. It's unsettling: what else might be happening in our own quiet streets?
Personally, I think it's rather wonderful. Clearly it's an ancestor of the brilliant TV adaptations of Le Carre; indeed, it feels more like Le Carre than Greene, which may be why Greene reportedly didn't like it. But it needs to be viewed for what it is: an essay in tension, told in a deliberately chosen style. If you only like action films, it's not for you.
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