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.