This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in ... See full summary »
This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in his life. Rick was a raconteur, con man, thief, black marketer and all in all, simply larger than life. From a young age, Rick included Magnus in his schemes and the young man learned that you would do anything for the ones you love. When a university student in Switzerland, Pym meets the other person who will have the greatest influence in his life, Axel, a Czech refugee. As Pym enters his career in the British Secret Service, his relationship with Axel and the values he developed in childhood lead him down his own path of betrayal and loyalty. Written by
This is my second time through for A Perfect Spy. I watched it 2 or 3 years ago and liked it. I like it still. It's natural that it gets compared to the beeb's other big Le Carre' series, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Tinker Tailor focuses on the "game" spies play; Perfect Spy gives us the other axis - what kind of person a spy is. There are a number of themes that these movies share, along with others in the genre.
Ambiguity - moral, sexual, interpersonal - which creates a multidimensional space of true vs. false, inside vs. outside, love vs. responsibility. In a way, these characters are happiest when they are being treated the most shabbily by those they love and respect - "backstabbed" in its various nuances.
The theme of fathers and father-figures is also important. One of the most intriguing characters in A Perfect Spy is Rick, the main character Magnus' perhaps ersatz father. Throughout the story he betrays and is betrayed. A rogue who always manages to climb back up the ladder when he's been toppled, who seems impervious to what others think of him, asks Magnus each time they meet, "Do you love your old man?" and never, "Do you love me?" Maybe it says this somewhere else, but A Perfect Spy is a love story.
Another theme is that of malignancy. The nature of the business is to turn others - turn them against their government, against their friends and associates, turn them against their values and beliefs. In each of the Le Carre' movies I have seen, The Spy who Came in From the Cold, Looking Glass War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Smiley's People, and A Perfect Spy, turning and being turned is the foundation of the tragedy.
Finally, not so much a theme as an artistic touch - in each of these films there is usually only a single gun shot, or perhaps two shots bookending the story. Violence, torture, cruelty are always just beneath the surface. We see their results not as streams of blood or dank prison cells but in the the objects Le Carre''s characters cling to as they are ineluctably sucked down into the morass.
If you haven't seen the films above, and you enjoy A Perfect Spy, you are in for a treat. I'd also recommend The Sandbagger series (Yorkshire TV), the 2nd and 3rd seasons of which begin to reach the level of this kind of complexity. The IPCRESS File and Burial in Berlin are nice, though light weight. For political intrigue try A Very British Coup, House of Cards and Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister.
If only a brit would set his hand to making The Three Kingdoms - there would be a film with intrigue and complexity.
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