the fresh films reviews

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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965)

Martin Ritt

United Kingdom


Spionen som kom inn fra kulden

112 minutes

Martin Ritt

Screenwriter (based on the novel by John le Carré):
Paul Dehn
Guy Trosper

Cast includes:

Alec Leamas Richard Burton
Nan Perry Claire Bloom ˝
Fiedler Oskar Werner
Peters Sam Wanamaker
Eaast German Defence Attorney George Voskovec -
George Smiley Rupert Davies -
Control Cyril Cusack
Hans-Dieter Mundt Peter van Eyck ˝
Ashe Michael Hordern
Dick Carlton Robert Hardy -
Patmore Bernard Lee -



The world of physical espionage and counter-espionage, agents and double-agents, cold war and iron curtains in which information was sparse and terribly hard to collect and convey seems even more alien and fundamentally senseless today than it must have done for the average moviegoer in 1965. The difference, of course, is that in several European countries at the time, people actually lived in a reality where saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time could be disastrous. And this was arguably what made John le Carré's unglamorous, demoralizing account of what life of spies was actually like fascinating for contemporary readers and subsequently viewers. In stark contrast to the James Bond movies, Martin Ritt's adaptation of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold conveys a looming, persistent uncertainty where nobody really knows who to trust and what's going on behind the scenes, not even our protagonist Alec Leamas (Richard Burton). The picture is broodingly atmospheric, thanks to fine b/w cinematography by Oswald Morris and a suggestive score by Sol Kaplan. But although the story is clever within its own terms, the film is too meticulous and plotted out for it to transcend its very specific realm. On the plus side, it doesn't come off as dated technically after over half a century, and the sociological points it makes are not only still valid today, but some of them have also retained a poetic sensibility. The fine Oskar Werner is the film's stand-out performer as an idealistic communist. Richard Burton looks (and probably was) every bit as jaded and alcoholic as Alec Leamas is supposed to be, which gives the character the right foundation. Incidentally, this newfound jadedness of his is the best aspect of his performance. When he is supposed to be aggravated and forceful, he is too stagy for the part. But his grittiness as Leamas certainly helped deglamourize the spy ideal, which was an accomplishment in itself. Le Carré was said to have been very happy with him. A sentiment which was not shared by Ritt, with whom Burton constantly clashed on set. There is also fine supporting work from Cyril Cusack, Sam Wanamaker, and Burton's old buddy Michael Hordern.

Copyright © 20.04.2021 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang