The Cold War was marked with heightened public interest in espionage. In reality, there were tensions between East and West and fears surrounding a nuclear arms race. In fantasy, Ian Fleming’s fictional British spy James Bond made a mark in cinema. The latter glamorized the danger of espionage as sort of an antidote to the former. Interestingly enough, there was an antidote to the Fleming version of spying: the John le Carré version of spying.
The novel titled The Spy Who Came In From the Cold launched le Carré to fame and was also made into a 1965 film adaptation. I’ve read the book and seen the movie. I can tell you that, except for a change in the lead female character’s name, the film essentially follows the book faithfully. Both versions present cold cynical truths about espionage.
In the film, actor Richard Burton is Alec Leamas, a British spy who steps out of the field and takes a job as an assistant librarian. He meets Claire Bloom as the lovely Nan Perry, who is a member of a local communist party but nevertheless strikes a mutual romance with Leamas. As this is going on, Leamas “comes out of the cold.” He is given an assignment in which he must pretend to defect to East Germany in order to gather evidence against an agent named Mundt.
To do this, Leamas makes contact with an agent named Fiedler, played by Oskar Werner. From there, things move along until the film’s key scene in which major revelations are made with regards to everyone’s actual roles. The dialogue is good throughout the film, but it seems most interesting during this sequence. Afterwards, the film approaches its conclusion at the Berlin Wall.
Overall, I thought the movie was decent. The actors played their roles well and the story has enough intrigue. I give the film credit for those elements. The challenge, though, is how intricate the whole story is. It requires more than average attention to detail on the viewer’s part. Even so, you can get the gist of the story. According to John le Carré, there is no glory in espionage. It is nothing but a deceptive game of chess where anyone can be expendable.
Anthony’s Rating: 6/10