A Perfect Spy
is a captivating, straight-ahead adaptation of John Le Carré's novel about the development of a Cold War double agent, Magnus Pym, whose life since childhood has taught him the art and elements of deceit. Peter Egan (Bean: The Movie
) plays the adult Pym, raised in part by his con-man father, Rick (Ray McAnally), and the latter's community of accomplices. Stranded in Vienna while working an angle for Rick that goes wrong, young Magnus (Benedict Taylor) makes a connection with a down-on-his-luck writer, Axel (Rudinger Weigang). That relationship will come back to haunt him when Axel--later a Communist spy--recruits Magnus to divide his loyalties between East and West.
Typical of a Le Carré drama, the role of nature versus nurture in the spy business is a complex and fascinating mystery. Magnus has always been a talented liar--it was part of his survival in childhood--and seems most comfortable infiltrating others' secrets and tempting danger. But he is slowly and effortlessly outsmarted by those who know how to maneuver a man into a corner before he realizes he has run out of options. The cast of this 1988 British television miniseries is the best thing about the production, especially McAnally (My Left Foot), who died the following year. Arthur Hopcraft's smooth adaptation of Le Carré's story keeps the sometimes complicated narrative accessible, --Tom Keogh
WHAT TRAITS OF NATURE AND NURTURE go into the making of a master of deception? British agent Magnus Pym's training begins in a chaotic childhood. His charismatic con man father trades secrets for love, bouncing in and out of jail and his son's life. Schooled at Oxford and mentored by two masters of espionage, Magnus is poised for greatness - except that his mentors are on opposite sides of the battle.
Le Carre weaves a gripping tale of international intrigue brilliantly adapted for the BBC by Arthur Hopcraft, who also adapted le Carre's TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY for television. A PERFECT SPY stars Peter Egan (REILLY: ACE OF SPIES) and Ray McAnally (A VERY BRITISH COUP) with an exceptional supporting cast featuring Alan Howard, Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Sarah Badel.