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79 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best mini-series done for TV
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,...
Published on June 3, 2003 by Shahid Mahmud

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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
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...
Published on June 20, 2006 by Vincent Poirier


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79 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best mini-series done for TV, June 3, 2003
By 
This review is from: Perfect Spy [VHS] (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect spy series, February 27, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A Perfect Spy [VHS] (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Le Carre's Great Book Adapted for Film, March 1, 2006
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This review is from: John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (DVD)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANCE ON VIDEO, August 23, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A Perfect Spy [VHS] (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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding adaptation of a novel which must have been very tough to film, January 29, 2007
By 
This review is from: John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (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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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, June 20, 2006
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This review is from: John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (DVD)
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Trip Down The Secret Path, April 30, 2009
By 
This review is from: John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (DVD)
As a fan of author John le Carre I've slowly been working my way through both his books and the adaptations of them. I found this 1987 adaptation of le Carre's masterwork originaly at my local library before I eventually bought this DVD and sat down to watch it thinking I would know what to expect. I was surprised to discover that my expectations were exceeded in this miniseries, a fine cross between a spy thriller and a human drama.

Peter Egan gives a great performance as Magnus Pym, the perfect spy of the title. Carrying on in the long tradition of le Carre's strong main characters, Pym is also quite possibly the best. Egan plays Pym (who in fact contains many shades of author le Carre) as a man forced to spend his entire life lying and betraying sometimes out of circumstance and other times just to survive with the consequence of him becoming "a perfect spy". Egan plays Pym to perfection as a man always on the run, if not from others then from himself. Egan alone makes the six or so hours of this miniseries worth seeing from his performance alone.

Surronding Egan is a fantastic supporting cast. Ray McAnally gives one of his finest performances as Pym's con man father Rick who (as le Carre has said) is based strongly on the author's own father. McAnally plays a man who comes in and out of Pym's life and is one of the those responsible for Pym becoming "a perfect spy". In fact if it wasn't for McAnally's performance a year after this in A Very British Coup this would the finest performance of his sadly too short career.

The rest of the supporting is excellent as well. From Caroline John as Pym's mother to Alan Howard as his spy mentor to Rüdiger Weigang as the young Pym's friend turned controller to Jane Booker as Pym's wife the supporting cast is fantastic. Special mention should be made of the three young actors who played the younger Pym (Jonathan Haley, Nicholas Haley and Benedict Taylor) who establish the young man who would become the man played so well By Peter Egan.

The production values of the miniseries are strong as well. As the miniseries adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People proved these stories can only be told in miniseries format. The locations are excellent from the English locations to the those scattered across Eastern Europe and the USA as are the sets by Chris Edwards. The cinematography of Elmer Cossey adds an extra layer of realism to the world of the miniseries. Yet the highlight of the miniseries is really the script.

Screenwrtier Arthur Hopcraft tackled the job of adapting the six hundred or so page novel excellently. The novel was largely (at least in its early parts) autobiographical in that Pym's early life echoed much of John le Carre's life. The script for this miniseries is no exception as it traces the development of Magnus Pym from young boy to "a perfect spy". Never once does the miniseries deviate from its purpose of telling a fine human drama in the context of the world of espionage. If one ever wants proof that a spy thriller can be tense and fascinating without ever having one gun fight, fist fight, or James Bond style car chase this would be the proof. While the miniseries is six plus hours long it never wastes a moment and it all the better for it.

Though it might be overlong for some for those who don't have very short attention spans here is a must see. From the performances of Peter Egan and Ray McAnally to fine production values and a fine literary script A Perfect Spy is one of the finest miniseries who can expect to see. It is a fascinating trip down the history of the Cold War yet it is more then that. It is also a trip down what John le Carre has called "the secret path": the path of the spy the man who must lie and betray to survive. As much a human drama as a spy thriller A Perfect Spy isn't to be missed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A difficult jobe well done, January 12, 2009
By 
Keith Rowley (Perth, Western Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (DVD)
'A Perfect Spy' is quite simply one of the most captivating literary works I have read in my 51 years. The Machiavellian and cruel deceit and opportunism exercised by Ricky Pym is traced with such a masterly pen that his characteristics and mannerisms remain indelibly imprinted on my mind these many years. Hardly surprising maybe, as this is one of those rare treasures I continue to read again and again. But even the colossal corruption of Ricky cannot dominate this work: every character is fleshed out and impelled with Shakespearean or Dickensian skill into the mind of the reader; every character fascinates, and repels or delights. One feels in many respects that the world of Ricky Pym, his family and Faginesque entourage is indeed the corrupted offal on which the intelligence community feeds and thrives. So much for the book...

The TV series could never live up to this without capturing every scene and line from the book, for no line or scene can be omitted without damage to the exquisite tapestry of interrelationships and sub plots that is its essence. So yes, sterling performances from all players, but Oh! To see the whole thing. Nevertheless, this series is highly recommended.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect DVD, March 2, 2006
This review is from: John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (DVD)
This John Le Carre adaptation is almost as good as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, there's no legendary performances here but the screen play by Arthur Hopcraft and a strong cast make it a pleasurable viewing experience. The suspense and understanding the psychology of a spy builds through each episode and for such a slow paced film at times it really is surprising edge of the seat stuff. Just a quick note on Peter Egen, at first i had trouble not picturing him standing next to Richard Briers (Everdecreasing Circles) but once you get over this initial shock by the end you realise what good job he does for the part and that he is actually a rather splendid actor.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Not Must-See TV, February 27, 2007
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (DVD)
"A Perfect Spy" was the third of Britisher John LeCarre's cold war spy novels to be filmed for television by the British Broadcasting Company. As they generally did at that time, they threw money at the screen: script by the talented Arthur Hopcraft, who'd previously done the honors for the same author's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and "Smiley's People;" location filming in glamorous places, extras and cars galore. Yet it's just not the same "must-see tv" as its stablemates.

Magnus Pym, played by Peter Egan, is here the perfect spy, double-dealing with zest. We are apparently supposed to think he's like this because his father Rik(Ray McAnally, who died soon after filming was completed) was an outside-the-law confidence trickster who enjoyed his work, and maybe that is enough to explain the son's behavior, who knows. It's certainly noticeable that most viewers will not find either main character particularly likeable;whereas Rik and his troops seem at least always to be having a good time, Magnus is portrayed as being a nasty little boy from the beginning. Interestingly enough, we must assume this material is intensely personal to its author. He's described his own father as a conman, and both author and his character Magnus have studied and worked in the German-speaking world. In fact, he's repeated these elements in several books, as he's repeated the seaside hideout, even the nickname "Tiger," here, used by father to son; in "Single and Single," the conman father is called "Tiger" himself.

So why doesn't it work? To begin with, it's seven episodes, the riveting "Tinker" and "Smiley" are only six. And the other two series have many sharply-drawn, memorable characters, plus attention-grabbing plots. There are many fewer characters here, they're not nearly as flavorful, and the plot, especially as it's a downer, doesn't really seem to need so many episodes. Furthermore, aside from McAnally, and Dame Peggy Ashcroft in an important supporting role, the Beeb seems to have stinted on the leading and supporting roles. Many of these actors are just not as expressive as they could be. A lot of viewers might find they are tempted to forget that third disk.
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John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy
John Le Carre's A Perfect Spy by Peter Smith (DVD - 2006)
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