21 user 15 critic

The Human Factor (1979)

When a leak of information in the African section of British Intelligence is discovered, security man Daintry is brought in to investigate.


Otto Preminger


Graham Greene (novel), Tom Stoppard (screenplay)





Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Attenborough ... Colonel John Daintry
Joop Doderer Joop Doderer ... Cornelius Muller
John Gielgud ... Brigadier Tomlinson
Derek Jacobi ... Arthur Davis
Robert Morley ... Doctor Percival
Ann Todd ... Castle's Mother
Richard Vernon ... Sir John Hargreaves
Nicol Williamson ... Maurice Castle
Iman ... Sarah
Keith Marsh Keith Marsh ... Porter
Anthony Woodruff Anthony Woodruff ... Doctor Barker
Gary Forbes Gary Forbes ... Sam
Angela Thorne ... Lady Mary Hargreaves
Tony Haygarth ... Buffy
Paul Curran ... Halliday


Arthur Davis, with British intelligence African section, takes a file with him, to meet his girlfriend Cynthia, the brass fears he may be the leak to Moscow, and plan to stop the damage permanently. But the damage isn't stopped, and agent Daintry's brothy in to investigate Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Every man in love is a potential traitor.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


At the time that this espionage movie was made, Sir Derek Jacobi (playing Arthur Davis) had only recently appeared as Guy Burgess in the Cambridge spies television movie, "Philby, Burgess and Maclean (1977)." The suspicion of treason in both the Graham Greene novel "The Human Factor" and this filmed adaption was based on Cambridge spy Kim Philby, who was Greene's friend. Greene has said though that the central character of Maurice Castle (Nicol Williamson) was not based on his former boss Kim Philby. See more »


Daintry tails Davis in a rather small restaurant. Despite mentioning earlier that Daintry has searched Davis and his overcoat for hints of a mole inside the office Davis, who sits alone at his table not far and across from Daintry, does not seem to notice much less recognize him although he even passes him when leaving the restaurant. See more »


Maurice Castle: Davis calls all children "little bastards".
See more »

User Reviews

easy to underestimate
2 April 2007 | by bacoxSee all my reviews

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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Release Date:

January 1980 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Human Factor See more »


Box Office


$5,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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