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Human Factor, The

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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(Jun 11, 2013)
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Editorial Reviews

Oscar® winner John Gielgud*, Derek Jacobi, Richard Attenborough and Nicol Williamson star in this intriguing take of spies and counterspies, based on Graham Greene's brilliant novel. When a leak in the British Secret Service is discovered in Russia, two agents become the target of the government's investigation: Arthur Davis (Jacobi), a high-living bachelor whose attempts at a secret rendezvous with a woman arouse the suspicions of his superiors; and Maurice Castle (Williamson), who eight years earlier had defied his government by falling in love with an African woman (supermodel Iman) and helping her escape to England to become his wife. Ironically, one of the men is selling secrets to the Communists, and in the course of the investigation, the suspected double agent is eliminated by the government. But did they kill the wrong man? Directed by Otto Preminger (Advise and Consent) and written by Tom Stoppard (Empire of the Sun), The Human Factor contains multi-layered plot twists that will keep you in suspense until the climactic finale! *1981: Best Supporting Actor – Arthur.

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Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Attenborough, John Gielgud, Joop Doderer, Derek Jacobi, Robert Morley
  • Directors: Otto Preminger
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Warner Archive Collection
  • DVD Release Date: June 11, 2013
  • Run Time: 115 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,667 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Terrific cast in this effective adaptation of a Graham Greene novel. Nicol Williamson is especially good. My only reservation is that there are sudden flashbacks to South Africa, and the transitions leave the viewer wondering, at least momentarily, when and where the action is taking place.
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Graham Greene's Philby-inspired double agent Maurice Castle, the very antithesis of 007 or Austin Powers, bicycles to work, decodes Cold War cryptography with a stubby felt marker and leads a generally bourgeois suburban existence with an African wife, her son and passive guard dog Buller. These deliciously mundane spydom realities are very deviously understated by Greene, Otto Preminger and smart scenarist Tom Stoppard, and true to form Preminger, directing his final film at age 74, delivers a rippingly good UK cast. Scotland's Brandoesque bad boy Nicol Williamson plays Castle quietly but spectacularly well, fully attuned to the deadpan Preminger (and Greene) idiom, and the supporting cast has particularly fine turns by Richard Attenborough, Richard Vernon, Robert Morley, Ann Todd and a subdued Derek Jacobi. The exotic model Iman is no actress (cf. Jean Seberg), but Preminger directs her indulgently and very decoratively.

Preminger and Stoppard follow Greene's autumnal 1978 novel closely but introduce discontinuous flashbacks set in Pretoria (cheaply filmed in Kenya) that amplify Castle's curious double allegiance to London and to Moscow, and the semi-traitor's biracial domesticity--spydom's "human factor"--is an important theme recurring throughout Preminger's career trajectory. Allegiances and motivations shift like quicksand in this complex yet straightforward narrative, and it's interesting that those literary men Greene, Stoppard and Preminger use enciphered editions of Twain, Tolstoy and Trollope (along with stubby felt markers and unanswered landline phones) as the Luddite technologies for Castle's very prosaic yet very serious low-tech spying.
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