TV Review – THE IPCRESS FILE (2022)

THE IPCRESS FILE (2022, UK, 6 x 45m, 15) **½
Drama, Thriller
dist. ITV (UK); pr co. Altitude Television/Turbine Studios; d. James Watkins; w. John Hodge (based on the novel by Len Deighton); exec pr. Will Clarke, John Hodge, Sanford Lieberson, Andy Mayson, Steven Saltzman, Hilary Saltzman, James Watkins; pr. Paul Ritchie; ph. Tim Maurice-Jones (Colour | 2.00:1); m. Tom Hodge; ed. Karl Rhys; pd. James Price; ad. Holly Morpeth, Ivan Veljaca.
cast: Joe Cole (Harry Palmer), Lucy Boynton (Jean Courtney), Tom Hollander (Major Dalby), Ashley Thomas (Paul Maddox), Paul Higgins (Minister), David Dencik (Col. Gregor Stok), Joshua James (Chico), Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (General Cathcart), Anastasia Hille (Alice), Brian Ferguson (Ian Randall), Matthew Steer (Professor Dawson), Nora-Jane Noone (Dr. Karen Newton), Corey Johnson (Capt. Skip Henderson), Irfan Shamji (Carswell), Anna Geislerová (Dr. Polina Lavotchkin), Urs Rechn (Housemartin), Paul Bazely (Morris), Marko Braic (Murray), Tamla Kari (Deborah), Mark Quartley (Pete), Alexandra Moen (Mrs. Dalby).
An ambitious, stylish, but often impenetrable adaptation of Len Deighton’s 1962 debut novel sees Joe Cole take on the iconic role of ex-smuggler Harry Palmer (played in the 1965 big-screen version by Michael Caine), who is turned into a reluctant spy at the centre of an undercover mission as the Cold War rages around him. When an important British nuclear scientist goes missing, Palmer’s links to the missing man send him on a dangerous mission around the world in a race against time to prevent vital information from falling into the wrong hands and triggering a global catastrophe. The rich period detail is perhaps at times overplayed – Boynton looks like she has wandered in from a Mary Quant photoshoot in every scene she is in – and Watkins’ penchant for using angular framing becomes disorientating and distracting through its persistence. Cole is excellent as Palmer, stamping his own quirky personality on the role, whilst referencing Caine’s iconic look. Where the production falls down is in the muddy complexity of the plot, which is difficult to follow. Individual scenes stand out but as a whole, the series demands a lot of its audience to sustain its interest and comprehension over 6 episodes. In Deighton’s books, Harry Palmer is not named. The character name used in the original movie is carried over here.

Film Review – THE IPCRESS FILE (1965)

Image result for the ipcress file 1965 blu-rayIpcress File, The (1965; UK; Technicolor; 109m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Sidney J. Furie; w. W.H. Canaway, James Doran; ph. Otto Heller; m. John Barry.  Cast: Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Aubrey Richards, Frank Gatliff, Thomas Baptiste, Oliver MacGreevy, Freda Bamford, Pauline Winter, Anthony Blackshaw, Barry Raymond, David Glover, Stanley Meadows. In London, a counter espionage agent deals with his own bureaucracy while investigating the kidnapping and brainwashing of British scientists. First-rate and gritty spy thriller with a typically complex plot. Caine’s hero is the antithesis of James Bond, with his ordinary lifestyle and lack of glamour. Brainwashing sequence in the final act is effectively shot and acted. John Barry’s moody score adds significantly to the cold atmosphere of espionage and deceit. Based on the book by Len Deighton. Followed by two sequels – FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966) and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967) – and later two direct to video releases – BULLET TO BEIJING (1995) and MIDNIGHT IN SAINT PETERSBURG (1996). [PG]

Film Review – FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966)

FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966, Lowndes Productions, UK, 105 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Spy Thriller) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Michael Caine (Harry Palmer), Paul Hubschmid (Johnny Vulkan), Oskar Homolka (Col. Stok), Eva Renzi (Samantha Steel), Guy Doleman (Ross), Hugh Burden (Hallam), Heinz Schubert (Aaron Levine), Wolfgang Völz (Werner), Thomas Holtzmann (Reinhardt), Günter Meisner (Kreutzman), Herbert Fux (Artur), Rainer Brandt (Benjamin), Rachel Gurney (Mrs. Ross), John Abineri (Rukel), David Glover (Chico).
      Producer: Charles Kasher; Director: Guy Hamilton; Writer: Evan Jones (based on the novel by Len Deighton); Director of Photography: Brian Elvin (Technicolor); Music: Konrad Elfers; Film Editor: John Bloom; Production Designer: Ken Adam; Art Director: Peter Murton; Set Decorator: Michael White, Vernon Dixon.

funeralinbIn this solid follow-up to 1965’s THE IPCRESS FILE, British agent Harry Palmer (Caine) is sent to Berlin to receive a Communist defector (Homolka), but the true situation turns out to be rather more complicated.

The plot twists and turns and Caine is again highly watchable and droll as Palmer. But whilst the first film indicated a desire for exec producer Harry Saltzman to move away from the James Bond formula, in this second outing there are increasing nods toward his prime asset. This would be taken even closer with the third film in the series – BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN. In the meantime, Jones’ competent adaptation of Deighton’s complex novel keeps the viewer engaged. The production credentials are strong with great use of the Berlin locations, tight, if safe direction from Hamilton and a good supporting cast adds some energy to the proceedings.

The familiarity of the ingredients had been well and truly set by this point and the genre would become increasingly inhabited by far-fetched spoofs and parodies.