Instead of coming in from the Cold War, British agent Alec Leamas chooses to face another mission.Instead of coming in from the Cold War, British agent Alec Leamas chooses to face another mission.Instead of coming in from the Cold War, British agent Alec Leamas chooses to face another mission.
Richard Burton is Alec Laemmas, John Le Carre's reluctant spy, whose disillusionment is turned against him to save one last informant: hard to believe that Mr. Burton was then still in the throes of his public romance with Liz Taylor. Grim's the word here: from the opening Checkpoint Charlie Berlin scene to the Dutch shores to the East German countryside--the Cold War's done nobody any favors. Moreover, this harsh treatment of spies & their back-stabbing, double-dealing ways was made just after Ian Fleming's suave James Bond had become a pop movie icon (Bond's "M," Bernard Lee, as a grocer here ["T'get a proper credit, y'need a banker's reference."], gets the crap pummeled outta him by Burton).
Anyway, "Spy" is movie stripped of glamor: everyone gets usurped by people with power. Burton's Laemmas is sent to salvage the good guys' chief informant, a senior GDR official; Claire Bloom's Commie idealist Nancy is called to East Germany under the ruse of cultural exchange, to aid in the hoax. Oscar Werner is mesmerizing ("Were you present for ziss...Sanksgiving?") as the no. 2 man in the Abteilung, on the trail of no. 1, Peter van Eyck, until Laemmas shows up to thwart his plans.
If old cold warriors were only half as conniving as they appear here, whither did they go after the fall of the Soviet Union? Something to which nobody with nanogram of sense has paid much attention.
- Mar 23, 2004