For Reel

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
August 22, 2015, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Martin Ritt
4 Stars
The Spy Who Came in from the ColdIn 1959, Richard Burton and Claire Bloom starred in Look Back in Anger, one of the seminal “Angry Young Men” films. Shot by Oswald Morris, the film dealt with a young man’s disillusionment with middle class values, suggesting that British society had become seriously ill. It seems like no coincidence that Burton, Bloom, and Morris were paired again for this adaptation of John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, his first best-seller. As with the trend of counter-culture British films released in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this Cold War spy picture is equally disenfranchised, with communists and capitalists alike having their feet held to the fire. When it is a necessity to be no less brutal than one’s enemy, then where is the line between good and evil drawn? Burton plays Alec Leamas, an aging British agent who is not fond of absolutes–when asked about subjects such as his religion, he angrily responds that he’s simply “a man.” Save for the occasional outburst in the first half, the performance is a still one, a nicely accomplished feat of restraint that matches director Martin Ritt’s chilly tone.

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