Year of Release: 1965
Director: Martin Ritt
Screenplay: Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper, based on the novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
Starring: Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner
Running Time: 112 minutes
Genre: Spy thriller
Shortly after the death of one of his operatives, Alec Leamas (Burton), a British spy working in West Berlin, is recalled to London and drummed out of the Service (in spy parlance "coming in from the cold"). Short of money and spiraling into alcoholism, Leamas accepts a job in a library, where he catches the eye of fellow librarian, Nan (Bloom). However there is more going on than it appears. Far from coming in from the cold, Leamas is embarking on the most dangerous mission of his career, and soon it is not only his own life that is in danger, but Nan's too.
John le Carre's 1963 novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, became famous for it's gritty and realistic depiction of the world of international espionage and was a best-seller worldwide. The novel and the film can be seen as a riposte to Ian Fleming's hugely successful "James Bond" series. Shot in crisp black-and-white, the film evokes a seedy, miserable, dangerous world, and the spies are, to quote Leamas in a famous speech, "...a bunch of seedy squalid bastards like me..." Burton portrays Leamas as a cauldron of hatred and anger, mostly directed at himself, mercurial and dangerous. Claire Bloom provides the film's moral centre as the idealistic young Communist librarian who Leamas loves. Full of superb performances and still timely after all these years, this stuill may not be too all tastes (the unrelenting bleakness - although alleviated by a touch of mordant humour, the at times complex storyline and slow pace may put some people off). It certainly is not an action-packed thriller, but it demands to be seen. The closing images will stay with you for a long time.