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Burton at his Most Impressively Brooding,
This review is from: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Richard Burton's brooding performance coupled with appropriately grim black and white photography from cameraman Oswald Morris provide just the proper mood as the masterpiece thriller from former British intelligence operative John Le Carre was brought to the screen in 1965 with capable fidelity.
While a British production, the film's director was American Martin Ritt, an accomplished master of providing films of compelling seriousness with a touch of the grim, as exemplified by "No Down Payment", "Hud" and "The Front." Burton plays an intelligence operative gone to seed, hence the reference to "coming out of the cold" which, in spy talk, involves being taken out of the field of operation. Burton goes to planned seed, becoming an alcoholic who ultimately is thrown into prison for pummeling a thoroughly decent London grocer who had extended him credit and ultimately had to draw the line, incurring Burton's well orchestrated rage in accordance with plans from MI5.
As soon as Burton leaves prison Michael Hordern is waiting for him. They discuss "doing articles," a cover for what is really expected, turning allegiance and going to work for the Soviets. During this period Burton is provided with a job at a small library featuring psychic works. It is here that he meets Claire Bloom, an ideologue who attends local Communist study groups as a way of making a difference in a troubled world.
Burton operates in a realm of barely contained rage. He inveighs Hordern with scorn and is not about to disagree with Oskar Werner when the East Germany Communist ideologue refers to Burton and his ilk as "the lowest currency of the Cold War."
Burton's contempt for his role in a grimy affair is enhanced by the fact that he has been sent to East Germany to clear Peter Van Eyck of charges that he is a double agent working for Britain. Werner has shrewdly pegged him, and British intelligence does all it can to help a ruthless individual it took charge of after he murdered a man on a trip to England during an East German traveling trade exhibit. Eventually Bloom surfaces as a prop to assist the contemptible Van Eyck.
More twists and turns occur until ultimately Burton wonders just what the future holds for him, and whether Bloom, the only person he cares for in life, will be part of it. Circumstances ultimately answer important questions for Burton as he is propelled through a swirl of events masterminded by wily intelligence operatives to his ultimate destiny.
This is a spectacularly moody giant of a film. Guy Troper and Paul Rehn fashioned a brilliant script which meshes with Le Carre's chilling suspense masterpiece. "Spy" was a deserving recipient of a Best Film British Academy Award. It bristles with controlled rage and sizzling wit delivered with the proper measure of acid by Burton in one of his enduring roles.