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I notice that Netflix has this film listed under "Thrillers." It's not a thriller, but rather a fairly complex drama about what happens when people who are schooled not to trust anyone have almost unlimited power with no accountability. There's never a "stupid moment" in this film that reveals to us, the audience, or to Michael Caine as the protagonist, who the bad guys are or what they've done. We have to peel the layers off the onion along with Michael Caine. There is no James Bond ending in which the bad guys' island explodes and collapses into the sea. Instead, there is a real world ending tailored for adults. I liked the film.
I'm surprised that this movie has not got more attention on the IMDb,
of course it's dated which might be the problem. Another problem is
that the film print comes across as dreary and dull, I don't know if it
was a deliberate attempt by the film makers to do this but it just
makes it harder to watch. It's not a young cast, on the contrary it's
an old looking cast, although a fine collection of British character
actors (some who are no longer with us) of a bygone age. In addition
unless you are interested in British political culture, history and the
antics of the cold war you will find this hard going even if you are a
Michael Caine fan .There is a lot of dialog and the story line is a
little confusing at times.
However, in the light of recent events, Britain always going along with the USA, the Butler report on Britains reason for war in Iraq and the apparent suicide of UN weapons inspector David Kelly a critic and skeptic of the US and Britains claim of Iraqi WMD programs, as well as recent accusations that Harold Wilsons Govt in the 1970's was to be overthrown in favor of a military government either at the bequest of the US or at least with their blessing;I thought that it might have aroused more interest.
This movie was released in 1986 ironically at the time when the cold war was winding down but the fictional events depicted in this film were surly inspired by the Anthony Blunt scandal, the Jeffrey Prime case at GCHQ ( a British intelligence listening post), as well as the Thatcher government banning trade union activity at GCHQ on the grounds of national security. The film depicts skepticism about Britains so called independent nuclear deterrent which totally relied on US authorization, the inequities in the so called "special relationship" and CIA/MI6 meddling in British politics. Also, bugging, internal spying on British citizens, lack of intelligence service oversight, secrecy and lastly hypocrisy or double standard when dealing with moles and traitors. All in all a Guardian readers 'wet dream'.
The conventional thinking was that all Soviet sympathizers and potential traitors were from the working class. Well the problem was they were not. Many top members of the British establishment working in the civil service and the intelligence services who had access to sensitive information loathed the USA and that the Suez fiasco back in 1956 was a turning point for many of them. Although It has to be said that many British double agents and soviet moles were not just motivated by that but were recruited as far back as the 1930's. Many students from in the "Oxbridge" University systems who were Britains best and brightest destined for great things were motivated by their hatred of the Nazi/fascism passed secrets onto the USSR during WWW II and well into the cold war. Suez may have vindicated their beliefs.
The movie implies that the if you were from the respected establishment or of a certain class of person the 'official secrets act' did not apply to you. You would be spared the indignity of a public trial and the humiliation of exposure, however it was a two edged sword because it cut both ways. It would also cause too many red faces at the top as well as creating difficulties in the 'special relationship'. They would leave you alone to continue with all the perks provided you kept quiet and cooperated with the powers that be. On the other hand lower down the food chain you were not so fortunate. Not only were you likely to be prosecuted through the normal channels but if you were really unlucky you might end up being a victim of a CIA death squad who quietly knock off suspected whistle blowers and possible troublemakers rather than go through a costly and public trial.
As for the film itself there is good cast all round and many of the characters are very believable in their respective roles. Frank Jones (Michael Caine) is not fobbed off by an sweetheart investigation into his sons death which concludes suicide. While conducting his own investigation, he discovers irregularities and soon suspects a cover up, but worse that his own countries security services might be involved in his sons death after all. Jones a lifetime committed patriot and former navy man he is shocked to learn of the lengths that the British establishment go to protect one of their own despite their treachery at the expense of less mortals! I highly recommend this movie, check it out!
Michael Caine has been involved in some stinkers in his career (let's
face it every actor has to pay the bills); he has also made plenty of
very good films and also plenty of films like 'The Whistle-Blower': an
above average and very watchable drama of the second-rank. In fact it's
Caine's solid acting (mostly low-key though he does get to fly off the
handle in his own inimitable style a couple of times) which invests the
film with believable emotion and elevates it above it's many clichés.
The supporting cast is strong too; a cynical, amoral, self-serving and
oft sinister intelligence industry is portrayed ably by Gordon Jackson,
James Fox and John Gielgud.
It's a shame that the demands of marketing mean that a film is often plugged as something it isn't. In this case 'The Whistle-Blower' is not a thriller (in fact the one and only 'action' scene - a car crash -is pretty rubbish and looks a bit tacked on), and it is only superficially a story about cold-war espionage (there are plenty of references to Anthony Blunt et al, but it's no 'Smiley's People'). Essentially it's a drama about loss; a man's loss of faith (in this case in his country) and, of his son. I'd point any harsh detractors of this film to the scene where, soon after learning of his sons death, Jones (Caine) attempts to discuss what happened with his son's neighbour and colleague, Rose (Dinah Stabb), and I challenge them not to be moved and at the same time chilled by the exchange.
Yes, this film does have plenty of flaws. Cinematically it is pretty dull and dated; it has a bit of that naff 1970's/80's home-counties feel to it (though in some ways one could argue I suppose that this style aids in the depiction of the stolid, grey, snobby, repressed British establishment of the story... an establishment trying to cope with it's diminished, subservient place in the world while keeping up the public pretence that Britannia still rules the waves). It's full of clichés and undeveloped characters, and the screen-play has plenty of downs as well as ups; but credit where credit is due, it is at times thought provoking and engaging. It shouldn't be put down for trying to cram a lot of things in and so appearing sometimes a bit unsubtle as a result (as I said previously it's no 'Smileys People').
I felt compelled to follow Jones' journey through a cynical, venal and uncaring world, and in that fundamental manner, for me, the film is a success.
It was nice to see a film about cold war paranoia that was about the U.K. and not the U.S. Caine is very good, and the script is above average. A good thriller that doesn't resort to inane/unrealistic violence to keep interest.
The Whistle Blower tells a story which is likely to be obsolete
nowadays. The end of the cold war rendered stories of this nature
difficult to perceive but was written at a time when relations between
the US and USSR were strained and scandals were rife in British
Intelligence and at GCHQ.
The film tells the story of a jittery secret service heavily reliant on American information to help keep the soviets at bay. It demonstrates how the service would have reacted to the allegation that there were soviet agents within organisations such as GCHQ and how they may have been dealt with. The eventual reasoning is cruel and cold and leaves the watcher wondering if events like this really did take place at the time.
The Whistle Blower tells a good story which is easy to follow and comprehend. It is bolstered by a good cast but let down by poor direction making it staid in places.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Whistle Blower is not generally a great favourite of the critics, and is one of those small budget films that BBC2 used to show late at night - a typical Caine schedule filler, in fact. I recall seeing the movie some time in the early nineties, but to be honest I have always been fond of it. Caine's performance here is brilliant, and if this movie really is classed by many as one of those typically weak eighties Caine features, then surely the critics will acknowledge that in the bulk of those films, a fifty-something Caine was pretty much without blame. The most powerful example of this is when Caine is informed of the sudden tragic death of his son. As he plays a hard edged ex-serviceman, he is of course made of the proverbial stiff upper lip, but his reaction to the untimely news about his loss is a real lesson in reaction acting, which Caine has always favoured over the years. I always liked the parts Caine played throughout his fifties - I felt he displayed a real maturity and as an actor appeared to reach the peak of his career. I suppose this is why it's even more impressive that he continued - if not bettered - that fact in his sixties and seventies. So, this is typical eighties-Caine territory. Low budget British movie peppered with familiar faces from the British acting fraternity, all of them seemingly amazed at the chance to appear in a proper movie alongside the guv'nor. Set and filmed around Cheltenham, Caine really does carry this movie. Nigel Havers (as Caine's son) looks like a Harry Palmer love child, but is not challenged in his role, whilst Gordon Jackson and James Fox stereotype their way through the picture as high ranking secret servicemen. John Gielgud and Kenneth Colley are also used sparingly, but such is the quality of the supporting cast, they all beef up what could easily have been a terribly dull escapade. And let's not forget Barry Foster, 'victim' of being done up like a kipper by Caine in one of the infamous 'drunk' scenes. By 1986, no-one played drunks better than Caine, and he seemed to be so good at it that a number of his movies became worth watching just for their scenes where he successfully played a character pretending to be drunk one minute then stone cold sober the next. He pitches his performance perfectly here, and fortunately everyone seems to deliver - the potential pretentiousness (that doesn't roll easily off the tongue) of the movie is identifiable in most scenes - like quiet flames licking their way at the edge of each frame, but the calibre of the Caine inspired cast make this film easy on the eye. True, there are some highly corny moments, and many spy clichés are rolled out mercilessly (usually involving a traitor declaring his love for Russia) but the chief protagonists are clearly giving it their all, and I just happen to like this movie a lot. I think it's really because Caine is so accomplished at his task, that his confidence on screen carries you with it, and whilst it's obviously made on a budget of about eight quid, that still doesn't mean it can't deliver.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alhough not a Len Deighton work,"The Whistle - Blower" shares his view of the Intelligence Service as a continuation of the Class War by other means. Former Fleet Air Arm pilot Michael Caine is a patriotic Lower Middle Class Englishman proud that his son is a linguist working at GCHQ.When the young man dies under mysterious circumstances he soon becomes aware of an MI5/CIA link to his demise.As he makes his own investigations he comes up against a cunning and ruthless enemy - his son's former employers.High - ranking MI5 officers(which of course - it being the UK - means upper class Oxbridge men) conspire to protect one of their own by any means necessary. Nigel Havers,looking like a cross between Hank Marvin and Hugh Grant,is too old to convince as Mr Caine's son.With his worn sports jacket and leather - patched elbows,horn - rimmed glasses and floppy hair he is almost a caricature of the conscience - stricken intellectual.No matter how good his Russian he would have been shown the door at GCHQ within a month,one glimpse at his room and a cursory glance at his bookshelves would have convinced his paranoid "masters"that here was a man who was idealogically unsound. Mr Barry Foster is outstanding as Mr Caine's former colleague and retired spook who is brought back to the fold to muddy the waters. The scene where Mr Caine gets him drunk whilst pretending to be drunk himself is the highspot of the film.As it unfolds,Mr Caine gets more and more cold - eyed but still plays the part of a drunk to perfection. Sir John Gielgud is another caricature as the aristo mole being protected by the machinations of posh James Fox and Gordon Jackson. He is an arrant snob,patronising,condescending,arrogant and self - serving;an easy man to hate. The whole tone of the film is redolent of "The Ipcress File",a similarity not lessened by the sharing of its anti - American sentiments,its fear/contempt of the high - born,the two major cast members it has in common and the "Potemkin Village" segment of the plot. Even the colour print is similar.Perhaps Mr Caine saw his part as that of a middle aged,worn out Harry Palmer,with still just a spark of the old stroppiness.Certainly he has his voice pitched just right as the aspirant south of England business man,never quite sure whether to aim at Mitcham or Mayfair. As a cautionary tale about the abuse of governmental power "The Whistle Blower" has been overtaken by events,but admirers of Mr Caine will find a lot in it to like.
Michael Caine plays Frank Jones, a war veteran and patriotic British
citizen who is shocked to learn about the mysterious death of his son,
who had worked as a Russian translator for British Intelligence. Frank
reluctantly becomes convinced that his own government had his son
killed because he was going to "blow the whistle" on illegal and
unethical behavior by his employers. Not deterred by the usual
"national security" defense of the killers, Frank is determined to
bring his son's killers to justice, whether it be by legal or illegal
First-rate conspiracy drama has fine acting by all, and Caine quite believable as the grieving and outraged father. Film makes thoughtful observations about government secrets, and the "who watches the watchers?" debate. Worth seeking out.
"I still believe the man in the white hat always wins," Bob Jones
(Nigel Havers) tells his father (Michael Caine). They'll both have
reason to doubt that later on.
Caine plays Frank Jones, a man whose son works as a linguist at GCHQ. A mole for the Russians has been discovered, and since then, Bob Jones has become suspicious that something strange is going on, especially after there are a couple of "suicides." He confides in his father, who is concerned that Bob keep his job in a difficult economy, especially since he wants to marry a young woman with a child. She's in the process of getting a divorce.
When something happens to Bob, Frank tries to get to the bottom of it and learns some ugly truths, particularly when a journalist he is on his way to see meets with an unhappy end.
Michael Caine gives an excellent, touching performance as a man trying to make things right, and Nigel Havers is wonderful as his son. There are spot-on performances by James Fox, John Gielgud, Barry Foster, and Gordon Jackson in his final film.
Very good film, perhaps a bit dated now, with the British trying to keep the Americans as happy allies, and it doesn't give any final or easy answers. The novel was written in 1984, and this film was released in 1987.
A Brit on this board referred to this as a "Michael Caine filler" - I guess he has made a ton of films, but he's always worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was surprised to learn this thriller/drama was made in 1987. Whilst
watching, with references to pushing the nuclear button and the cold
war between the U.S and Russia, I thought it evoked the U.K's paranoia
over this in the early 1980s. Threads and the Two Tribes video sprang
to mind. Guess the film might have taken a few years to get off the
Anyhow, it's a great movie. Spot-on performances from Caine and Havers - and everyone involved really. It keeps you watching until the end because you want to see if Frank Jones gets even (in however diplomat a way) with the apparently impenetrable espionage network he faces.
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