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John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy


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Product Details

  • Actors: Ray McAnally, Rüdiger Weigang, Alan Howard, Peter Egan, Jane Booker
  • Directors: Peter Smith
  • Writers: Arthur Hopcraft
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 390 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000E1ZB9U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,487 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 7 episodes on three discs
  • John le Carré biography
  • Cast filmographies

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

What traits of nature and nurture go into the making of a master of deception? British agent Magnus Pym’s training begins in a chaotic childhood. His charismatic con man father trades secrets for love, bouncing in and out of jail and his son’s life. Schooled at Oxford and mentored by two masters of espionage, Magnus is poised for greatness—except that his mentors are on opposite sides of the battle.

With characters drawn from his own life, le Carré weaves a gripping tale of international intrigue brilliantly adapted for the BBC by Arthur Hopcraft, who also adapted le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for television. A Perfect Spy stars Peter Egan (Reilly: Ace of Spies) and Ray McAnally (A Very British Coup) with an exceptional supporting cast featuring Alan Howard, Peggy Ashcroft, and Sarah Badel.

Amazon.com

A Perfect Spy is a captivating, straight-ahead adaptation of John Le Carré's novel about the development of a Cold War double agent, Magnus Pym, whose life since childhood has taught him the art and elements of deceit. Peter Egan (Bean: The Movie) plays the adult Pym, raised in part by his con-man father, Rick (Ray McAnally), and the latter's community of accomplices. Stranded in Vienna while working an angle for Rick that goes wrong, young Magnus (Benedict Taylor) makes a connection with a down-on-his-luck writer, Axel (Rudinger Weigang). That relationship will come back to haunt him when Axel--later a Communist spy--recruits Magnus to divide his loyalties between East and West.

Typical of a Le Carré drama, the role of nature versus nurture in the spy business is a complex and fascinating mystery. Magnus has always been a talented liar--it was part of his survival in childhood--and seems most comfortable infiltrating others' secrets and tempting danger. But he is slowly and effortlessly outsmarted by those who know how to maneuver a man into a corner before he realizes he has run out of options. The cast of this 1988 British television miniseries is the best thing about the production, especially McAnally (My Left Foot), who died the following year. Arthur Hopcraft's smooth adaptation of Le Carré's story keeps the sometimes complicated narrative accessible, --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

An outstanding adaptation of the Le Carre's book.
Shahid Mahmud
Peter Egan gives a great performance as Magnus Pym, the perfect spy of the title.
Matthew Kresal
Many of these actors are just not as expressive as they could be.
Stephanie De Pue

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Shahid Mahmud on June 3, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
An outstanding adaptation of the Le Carre's book. Long and deliberately slow moving, it may not be for everyone. Very little 'action' as such, but an exceptional character study of what makes a 'Perfect' Spy. There is a certain sadness which permeates the film, and becomes quite powerful at the end. Highly, highly recommended for those who prefer thoughtful, deliberately paced movies.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 27, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This is a really memorable and extraordinarily well done story of the life of a spy. Unlike most other spy films, it tries to explain why and how, starting from his childhood, an individual becomes a spy and a double-agent. The series is so well crafted that I believed every instant of the story, and remained in total awe until the very end. I rate this even better than the also extremely good Le Carré series with Alec Guiness.
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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Doug - Haydn Fan VINE VOICE on March 1, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This version of a great novel has a straight-forward screenplay, and is much easier to follow than the many circumlucations of the book's narrative. The story of Pym's father's childhood is dropped and the first of three chronolgoically presented Pyms, the child, is a bit too strange though clearly manipulative. The second Pym is a good actor without rating a wow. But the actor playing the mature Pym is great, and the second half of the filming is something very special indeed.

The movie covers many years, and a viewer should realize this is for the most part a slowly paced internal drama, and not a Bond-like adventure film.

It is also NOT a film for children or teenagers.

The film is very tough emotionally - life in this film is definitely not sugar-coated: women are especially badly treated. The main subject is human betrayal of friends, family and finally oneself.

This review is based on the Video, but hopefully should help in deciding on a purchase of the DVD.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Shahid Mahmud on January 29, 2007
Format: DVD
This mini-series is based on one of the most complex books I have read - dealing extensively with the inner demons of a man on an inexorable path to self-annihilation. I am happy to note that this mini-series does a superb job of translating the story from the book to film.

Yes, allowances have been taken - I don't think one could have made a film of this book without taking such allowances. Purists will object, and I'm sure each of us can find fault in some of the choices made, but these choices, by definition, are very subjective. As a whole, on its own the mini-series stand as a brilliant achievement - a great character study of a man's loss of his own character as he descends into dark abysses of continuous duplicity.

Peter Egan, a surprising choice for the role, does an outstanding job in the title role. A number of users have commented on how inappropriate he is for the role. I disagree, and again, I think the problem is the subjectivity of the subject. So much of the movie is based on his inner feelings and it is hard to convey that to the viewer. Some might prefer a more robust expression of his inner turmoil, but that does not really fit well with the character. I think, his more subtle approach is much more engaging and truer to what I imagined in the book - of course, others may have imagined differently and for them this may become a problem with his portrayal.

Overall an outstanding adaptation of the Le Carre book. Be forewarned that, just like the book, it is long and deliberately slow moving and may not be for everyone. Very little 'action' as such, but an exceptional character study of what makes a 'Perfect' Spy. There is a certain sadness which permeates the film, and becomes quite powerful at the end. Highly, highly recommended for those who prefer thoughtful, deliberately paced movies.

IMDB users have given this film an extremely high 8.8 (out of 10) rating as of January 2007.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
Along with the SMILEY videos which feature Alec Guinness's greatest performance, this filming of LeCarre's brilliant novel is thoughtful entertainment at its best. With a bravura performance by the late Ray Macanally and a superb script by Arthur Hopcraft, A PERFECT SPY is simply perfect. Buy the Smileys and this one and lock yourself in a room. END
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Poirier on June 20, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Good: Ray McAnally's brilliant performance as Rick Pym, the main character's conman father.

The Bad: the miniseries oversimplifies the narrative by giving us Magnus Pym's story along a single time line, from boyhood to adulthood. The novel works on two time lines; the first one follows the search for Magnus Pym who has disappeared and the second one follows his reminiscences of his life as he hides in a seaside hotel. The book jumps back and forth, and while the US, UK, and Czech secret services are all looking for him, we are wondering why Pym went into hiding and why he seems scared and relaxed all at once. In the miniseries, we don't much care about Magnus at all. The only thing I cared about was when would Pym senior reappear.

The Ugly: Peter Egan as Magnus Pym. Completely wrong. In the book Magnus Pym was very much like his father, seductive and charming, which is why he was such a successful spy. In the mini series, Pym is unimposing and weak. It's difficult to believe he can convince anyone to trust him.

Very disappointing. Apart from McAnally, Rudiger Weigang as Pym's college friend and Czech contact gives a hammy but good performance. For diehard LeCarré fan only.

Trivia: McAnally played the Pope's envoy in "The Mission".

Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
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