The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Year:
1965
Country:
UK
Genre:
Drama
IMDB rating:
7.6
Director:
Martin Ritt
George Voskovec as East German Defense Attorney
Beatrix Lehmann as Tribunal President
Rupert Davies as George Smiley
Sam Wanamaker as Peters
Oskar Werner as Fiedler
Esmond Knight as Old Judge
Niall MacGinnis as German Checkpoint Guard
Cyril Cusack as Control
Robert Hardy as Dick Carlton
Claire Bloom as Nan Perry
Richard Burton as Alec Leamas
Peter van Eyck as Hans-Dieter Mundt (as Peter Van Eyck)
Bernard Lee as Patmore
Storyline: Alec Leamas, a British spy is sent to East Germany supposedly to defect, but in fact to sow disinformation. As more plot turns appear, Leamas becomes more convinced that his own people see him as just a cog. His struggle back from dehumanization becomes the final focus of the story.
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Reviews
An excellent movie from the book
All the other reviews have covered this thoroughly, but I have to say how impressed I was by the script, direction and the faultless cast. I can't remember a movie were the supporting cast was as strong. Everything in this movie is low key compared to the current style of movie making, but in that understated way it is so completely engrossing and believable that it leaves most movies far behind. The plot is so well-constructed in the book and so well depicted in this film that it is like walking through a maze where you have the sense that every step is inevitably following from the last towards a conclusion you can't really see but which also becomes more and more inexorable with every brilliantly played scene. Richard Burton's performance is perfect; his ability to transmit depths of thought and emotion without dialog was to me quite stunning to behold.
2008-06-22
Grim, just as it should be
I read the book about three years ago and was prepared to be disappointed with the feature as it's a grim book and I thought they'd soften it a little, the movie is excellent though, they made a couple of changes but all for the best, anyone who thinks spying was/is a glamorous occupation should check the film out, LeCarre actually worked as a spy too which adds weight to his dark and realistic (in my opinion)view of this filthy job. My favourite feature of the film is the contempt with which each of the communist spies treats his inferiors as the chain of command is followed, it's a beautiful touch which I don't remember from the book, and by the time Leamass starts laughing at it I was right there with him. I loved this film and can't recommend it enough, Burton is brilliant, some of his cold stares as things start going bad are magnificent, and of course he plays a great drunk... it's a nice script too.
2004-09-07
If only more spy movies were like this.....
It's truly refreshing to see a spy movie which does not involve fast cars, bikini clad women, super heroes etc. This movie shows how spies are used and discarded. The main character cannot perform stunning stunts while doing one hand push ups. He is just your average Joe who drinks too much and knows that there is no escape from his profession which he seems to hate. The idealism of young people seems to depress him even more which he rips apart towards the end (the highlight of the movie). The bleak look of the movie (it's in B&W) gives it even more of an authentic look and sets the mood for the viewer.

There are no explosions, no car chases, no sweeping a woman off her feet......just plain, simple story telling.
2005-06-01
Not an easy film - neither was the Cold War
Richard Burton is "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold," in a 1965 film also starring Claire Bloom, Oscar Werner, Sam Wanamaker and Peter van Eyck. It's told in the days of Checkpoint Charlie, East and West Berlin, and spies. There are still spies; the rest have gone with the unification of East and West Berlin once more.

Burton plays a British spy named Leamas who is at the end of his career. He takes an assignment to bring down an East German spy named Mundt and have him exposed as a traitor. Actually, it's a double whammy; Mundt is actually a spy who has infiltrated the East German ring and is unfortunately under suspicion and about to be exposed. So Leamas is to expose him and then be proved a liar so that Mundt's position is secure.

To come to the attention of the East Germans, Leamas is to pretend he's an alcoholic (and how much pretending this involves is up to the audience - maybe none), out of his job, and just out of prison after beating up a grocer (which he does so he can get arrested). He is naturally recruited by East German agents - first initially approached by a gay man who claims to represent a charitable organization. Though it's not stated that the man is gay, the dialogue makes no mistake about it. Hello '60s. Bit by bit he is introduced to the East German ring.

"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" is based on a John LeCarre novel. Unlike James Bond and his imitator Austin Powers, there is only one woman, played by Claire Bloom, who is an avowed Communist with whom Leamas becomes involved. There are no fancy spy instruments, no tuxes, no glamour, no fun. What the film offers more than anything is atmosphere - and it's a rotten one, chronically without sunlight, filled with depressing streets, dank alleys, and old buildings. One feels the chill in the air and the lack of true friendliness or warmth in this colorless world. It's depressing for the characters and equally depressing for the audience. That's the point.

The acting is superb. Oskar Werner plays a Jew named Fielder, and as one of the greatest actors to ever appear in film, he doesn't disappoint. (As a bit of trivia, Werner had a connection to Hollywood's Golden Era as the husband of Tyrone Power's stepdaughter Anne.) The beautiful Bloom is wonderful as an idealist doomed to disappointment. Peter Van Eyck is appropriately brutal as Mundt. No one really makes a wrong move.

Richard Burton was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Leamas. What a strange year that was, with Lee Marvin winning for "Cat Ballou" probably playing a role he could do in his sleep, while Burton lost for this and Olivier lost for "Othello!" One might think the Academy would have been embarrassed, but no - later on, they gave an Oscar to John Wayne instead of Burton, Peter O'Toole, Dustin Hoffman or Jon Voight. This is not to negate the presence and talents of Wayne and Marvin, which were considerable. But it does say something sad about the Academy Awards that Richard Burton went to his death with 7 nominations and no Oscar. He is truly magnificent in this role as an empty man who keeps in control despite seething anger underneath and whose stares say more than any script could. In many ways Burton never lived up to his potential as an actor. His marriage to Elizabeth Taylor brought him a fame and stardom he could never have dreamed of growing up as a poor child in Wales, but it kept him from doing more theater. Had he lived, he would have done more stage work, moved into different roles in film, and taken his place alongside actors such as Sir Anthony Hopkins. As it is, he has given us some truly great performances - Shannon in Night of the Iguana, George in Virginia Woolf, and Leamas being three of his best.

"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" makes a depressing statement. Don't watch it if you're feeling down. If you're feeling strong, you'll find it fascinating.
2007-02-13
Excellent! 10/10
Step out of the James Bond world ( yes it is hard, I know because I'm a James Bond fan) and immerse yourself in this Spy classic. Richard Burton plays Alec Leamus, an aged, bitter spy who works as an operator on the west side of the Berlin Wall. Burton refuses to "come in from the cold," to take a desk job and get away from the front lines of the Cold War. Because he does this, Control sends him to his most dangerous mission ever: play a defecting agent who will supply information to cause his hated enemy, Mundt ( played by Peter van Eyck) to be arrested. To do this effectively, Leamus is given the boot from the Service and is forced to look for work. He becomes an assisstant librarian and forms a relationship with Nan Perry (Claire Bloom.) To all except Nan, Alec appears to be an embittered man whose hatred and live for alcohol will be his downfall. His act is not an entire act because Leamus is semi-alcholic and embittered about Life. If you enjoy comic book movies, this isn't for you. If you enjoy movies where you can do things every five minutes, this isn't for you. However, if you want to view a movie that is as gritty and as realistic as possible, where human lives are worthless and scraps of information worth more than gold, sit back and watch.
2002-02-09
Engrossing with one of Burton's better performances
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is perhaps not a movie for everybody, it is a very bleak and gritty movie. However, this bleakness was perfect for the story, and the result is a very engrossing film. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold also has some slow spots, but considering how complex the narrative is it was very effective. The photography is what makes this Cold War film so authentic, and the music just enhances the narrative. The writing is written in a clever and intelligent way, Morris' direction is appropriately icy and the story is complex yet always gripping with all the twists and turns, the cynical and ambiguous spy business and under-the-surface characters. The cast are exemplary, not just Richard Burton, who is wonderfully world-weary with bitterness pouring out of him, but also Claire Bloom, Cyril Cusack and especially Oskar Werner. The film also boasts Bernard Lee, Michael Hordern and Robert Hardy, all solid. Overall, a very engrossing film and one of the better John Le Carre adaptations either on film or otherwise. 9/10 Bethany Cox
2012-01-05
Exemplary spy adaptation
This spy film is an adaptation of the novel by John Le Carre and blows the recent TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY adaptation clean out of the water. It's a dark and dingy movie about Cold War relations and the lengths that either side will go to in order to protect their own operatives and destroy those opposing them.

The stark black and white photography is exemplary and gives the viewer the message that this will be a grimly realistic movie about the ruthless nature of Cold War spies. Richard Burton is perfectly cast as the jaded and burnt out agent who tries to live a normal life but is sent to Europe for one last job. The plot twists and turns so much that it's impossible to predict what's going to happen, and although it's very complex it also remains easy to follow from beginning to end.

There are some great twists here, and a masterful ending which really says everything that needs to be said about the situation. The all-star supporting cast is also very good, particularly a twitchy Oskar Werner and a fragile Claire Bloom. Best of all is a haunted Burton, playing perhaps the role of a lifetime.
2016-06-27
Read the book - forget the movie
I suppose this is a movie of its time. The acting is not as ham-fisted as the '40s but it is far from subtle.

Richard Burton is - Richard Burton. I've never watched him in a movie and felt anything other than I'm watching Richard Burton acting - invariably his regular role of a morbid drunk. The other actors mostly provide characitures, except fine roles by the shopkeeper and by the 'queer' who we first see waiting outside the prison.

I read the book many years ago and enjoyed the character development and the unfolding of the story. In the movie the plot seemed rushed and disjointed.
2012-04-05
Certainly one of the best movies ever made about Cold War
This is a great movie starred by brilliant Richard Burton about spies during Cold War. A little fuzzy and confusing in the beginning but totally impressing and and striking in the end. All the pieces and uncomplete information we have in the first half of the movie come together later, forming one of the best plots I have ever seen about Cold War films.

Richard Burton plays Alec Leamas, a spy who loses his job and gets more and more involved with drinking. He's then given a job in a library where he meets a girl with whom he starts going out with. This romance/drama movie changes its kind dramatically when Leamas, for a great amount of money, is put in a mission that has one aim: get Mundt, another spy. From this moment on the movie becomes a fabulous thriller with conspiration, suspense and passion.
2002-04-14
A true reflection of John Le Carré's novel
I started to watch this movie with a feeling that it was not going to follow the book very well, mainly because of the blurb on the DVD jacket, which certainly gave the wrong impression about it. Instead I found it following the book almost to the letter, which delighted me. John Le Carré's books all have a complicatedly slow and quiet pacing which doesn't make for the average spy movie, but to my pleasure this movie succeeded in following that pacing, rather than being turned into an action-adventure James Bond type thing.

If you don't like Le Carré's writing, you won't like this movie. If you don't like this movie, you won't like Le Carré's writing. I have read reviews that said it was boring. I found it gripping all through, but then, I prefer a quiet, slow, intelligent, thoughtful movie to shoot-em-up action-adventure movies. The cinematography was beautiful, and the long stretches of plot without music were highly appropriate. Music was not missed.

My favorite character was Fiedler. He was played much younger than I expected, and he was oddly lovable, with big, bright, smiling, sad eyes.

There were two minor disappointments for me. One was that the script had Control and Smiley sit Leamas down and explain what his mission was. Obviously Control did that in the book, but he never did it on the page. The skill of Le Carré's writing is that he never tells anything that early on but lets it all be a swirl of events until it all comes together at the end. That was the one thing I missed in this movie, that you didn't get to discover the (ostensible) plan as the plot unfolded but had it shoved in your face at the beginning.

The other minor disappointment was the actor who played Smiley. The more I watched Control, the more I thought that Cyril Cusack would be a nearly perfect Smiley. He has the short, round, elderly look and a face that could easily be played forgettable and ignorable with an underscore of that invisible charisma that makes certain people adore George Smiley (me, for instance). Whereas the man who played Smiley jarred slightly in the role.

But those are minor quibbles.
2012-08-16
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