Topaz

Topaz

Topaz has a lot to work with. Based on the real-life Martel affair, in which a Soviet defection triggered a crisis in American-French relations, it has a good spy story, believable characters and exotic locations.

Alfred Hitchcock does a competent job weaving it all together, but the end result somehow lacks momentum.

The story sounds exciting on paper. A high KGB official defects to the United States and reveals the presence of nuclear missiles on Cuba. The CIA recruit a French secret agent, André Devereaux (Frederick Stafford), to get proof from a member of the Cuban delegation — who would not cooperate with an American — that is visiting New York for the United Nations.

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The Day of the Jackal

The Day of the Jackal

When French president Charles de Gaulle agreed to Algerian self-determination in 1961, his right-wing supporters were outraged. They had returned the general to power only three years earlier so he could put down the bloody uprising in France’s most prized colony. Some of the pieds-noirs, the Algerian French, and their sympathizers in the army banded together in the paramilitary Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS) to stop the independence process with assassinations and bombings.

The Day of the Jackal, based on Frederick Forsyth’s novel of the same name, fictionalizes the group’s plots against De Gaulle.

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Deutschland 83

Deutschland 83

Deutschland 83 is Germany’s answer to the highly successful American television drama The Americans. Whereas the latter follows two well-trained KGB “illegals” in the United States, Deutschland 83 centers on a young East German border guard who is unwillingly thrust into the middle of a nuclear standoff.

The two series have a powerful theme in common: the way in which the extreme polarization of the Cold War could tear families apart.

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Guy Ritchie — maker of the two recent steampunky Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey, Jr. — gives us a great spy-fi comedy adventure this summer that dieselpunk fans ought to be interested in.

Although the The Man from U.N.C.L.E., based on the 1960s television series of the same name, takes place in the post-dieselpunk era, it contains many of the genre’s tropes and themes: spies, unrepentant Nazis in a plot against the two superpowers, missing nuclear weapons, speedboats, helicopters, industrial decors reminiscent of Thunderbirds and dashing Space Age costumes.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

If you expect a high explosives, action-packed, gunfire and combat scenes everywhere kind of movie — the likes of which Hollywood puts out every week — then you’ll be sorely disappointed with this. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is as far from the bog-standard, no-thoughts action film as it can be.

It’s a movie that takes its time for things to evolve, the plot to unfold and characters to develop. For the best, because this is one of the strongest espionage movies, possibly the strongest, I have seen in years.

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