Bullet to Beijing (Special Edition) (1995)
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Top Customer Reviews
The first three Harry Palmer films were very much products of their times in that they were made during the 'cold war' and had much of their action set in Swinging London. They also benefitted from a young Michael Caine establishing himself as a screen star. The new films had to change approach. London now seems to be full of nothing but traffic, the cold war is supposedly over, and Caine's age meant that it became incongruous to have him in exactly the same role he played thirty years earlier.
This situation has been tackled before. Callan, James Bond, and Smiley have all come out of retirement, Glasnost has been tackled well in the later James Bonds, and the emphasis on London is seldom seen these days in British films.
So to some extent Harry Palmer's comeback is a cross between Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye and it all seems a bit familiar. Nevertheless Caine's watchability and charm keep the film moving and the rather slow opening soon gives way to classy chases, set pieces, and so on, all laced with the cynicism and intelligence that characterised the first three movies. The score by Rick Wakeman is good, being based on traditional Russian music, but in places it's inappropriate and undermines the action.
It's a bit of a shame these films weren't made in the 1970s or 1980s as the transition would have been easier, but all in all, it's good to see him back.
I was wary when I learned that one of the producers was Harry Alan Towers. This is the man who made three versions of Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS, each progressively worse than the last. Peter Welbeck, who scripted two of those versions, wrote the screenplay for BULLET TO BEIJING.
When the two movies, BULLET and MIDNIGHT IN ST. PETERSBURG, finally aired I was disappointed. Caine looks good, but he doesn't have the same verve. Some characters just don't age well. Palmer was always a bit of a dupe in the earlier films (IPCRESS FILE, FUNERAL BERLIN, and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN), but here he seems particularly dull-witted. It looks like the majority of the budget went to Caine and location shooting, because it didn't go for editing or photography. And the score by Rick Wakeman almost sinks the project.
Casting is nice, but even though the two films were directed by different men, it is obvious they were filmed at the same time, with many of the same supporting players, including the less than impressive Jason Connery. Fans of the Len Deighton novels know that Harry Palmer is not the name of the character in the books (his name is never revealed), and that the name Harry Palmer was an invention of the filmmakers (including Harry Saltzman who co-produced the early Bond films). In BULLET TO BEIJING, the title reads Len Deighton's BULLET TO BEIJING - which is a misnomer because the story is based on nothing by Deighton, and it is doubtful he was ever involved in any way, shape or form.Read more ›
I don't particularly like this film, nor this version of the Harry Palmer character (incidently, even though it suggests otherwise, this has nothing to do with anything written by Len Deighton). I know it's a bit like that old joke where someone complains about how terrible food in a restauramt is, and then also complains that the portions are too small. But if you like this film, or are a Michael Caine completist, I thought it my duty to share the information about the additional footage.
Caine is Caine - superb. The younger Connery is obviously going places.
An informative romp through Russia with subtle nuances and ultimate treachery in store.
Well worth the few pennies for an excellent product.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fairly good movie. Interesting plot swings and excellent outdoor photography. Obviously made on a small budget, but the hilarious Aeroflot flight reminded me of the bad old times... Read morePublished on July 15, 2013 by Richard Warrick
British actor Michael Caine made several sequence of this espionage movies. They are really good since they are made with suspence, intellectually challenge, and without the... Read morePublished on August 23, 2008 by Carlos Del Campo
...the bullet before compromising Michael Caine into this. But, what else could you expect from trash made for TV (sorry for the redundancy).Published on February 13, 2004 by philrob
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