Former British secret agent Harry Palmer now runs a Private Investigation company in Russia. He gets a job to locate and recover a consignment of stolen plutonium, and with the help of ... See full summary »
John Preston is a British Agent with the task of preventing the Russians detonating a nuclear explosion next to an American base in the UK. The Russians are hoping this will shatter the "special relationship" between the two countries.
A war veteran tries to investigate the murder of his son who was working as a Russian translator for the British intelligence service during the Cold War. He meets a web of deception and paranoia that seems to be impenetrable.
When long-time British Agent Harry Palmer loses his job because the Cold War is over, he's promptly approached by a Russian bossman, Alex. In St. Petersburg, Alex tells Harry of his plan for Russia's future, which is threatened because a deadly biochemical weapon called the "Red Death" has been stolen from him. He'll pay Harry handsomely to retrieve it. An ex-spy friend tips Harry off that it's being sent to Beijing by train, aboard which we begin to learn whose side everyone's really on.
The version that aired on The Movie Channel in 1997 was cut from 122 to 101 minutes. Among the scenes cut was Sue Lloyd's onscreen appearance. This version was released on VHS and DVD. In 2001, the full version was released on DVD as a "special edition". See more »
I first broke into the Harry Palmer series when I thought Midnight in St. Petersburg sounded like a good film in the TV guide, and it had Michael Caine in it. Since then (realising there was more of it)I've become quite a fan of the series, not really minding if it was the vintage 60s or the modern 90s.
Bullet to Beijing was the fourth film out of the five that I've seen (I've yet to see the somewhat rare Billion Dollar Brain) and I thought it was a good film, certainly worthy of at least a 6.5 rating on IMDB. I know fans of the vintage 60s were somewhat opposed to this even being made, because it was obviously not going to be as good as The Ipcress File.
And it's not. The Ipcress File is still the best of Harry Palmer, but I thought this was the second best of the series. I found Funeral in Berlin to be mind-numbingly tedious, and Midnight in St. Petersburg didn't quite live up to this one.
First thing, I'm going to address a few issues regarding plot holes or continuity. Make no mistake, this is one of those films you'll probably have to watch twice or even three times to fully comprehend all that's going on. You have to concentrate on it, you can't watch it and talk on the phone at the same time. So most plot holes are probably down to something the viewer missed (I certainly thought that the first time I watched it).
This certainly isn't vintage Palmer, and I give it credit for not trying to be. Palmer is on the verge of retirement anyway, and so he's not going to be as quick or sharp as he once was (at least they didn't try and pretend he was still young!). Even so, he's still somewhat quick-witted and amusing, the milk in the tea joke being my favourite. He doesn't run from danger, something present in all the movies, even when he's being followed by the mafia, he's fairly daring once he's got away from them.
As for the film itself, it's very fast-moving and fluid. There are a LOT of twists and turns in the plot, but I like the fact that's it's all within the time limit of the train arriving in Beijing, who's going to make it there etc. The trouble with something like the Ipcress File was the amount of free time Palmer had, and so it would sometimes seemingly stand still, whereas the train journey here gave it an edge.
That's my humble opinion anyway, maybe I'm just uncultured. This certainly doesn't have the class of the 60s, but it makes up for it with the action, humour and plot-twists.
Incidentally, if you can get hold of it, there's a special edition DVD where Sue Lloyd has a slightly bigger role than a voice on the telephone.
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