A Perfect Spy
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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.
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
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The movie covers many years, and a viewer should realize this is for the most part a slowly paced internal drama, and not a Bond-like adventure film.
It is also NOT a film for children or teenagers.
The film is very tough emotionally - life in this film is definitely not sugar-coated: women are especially badly treated. The main subject is human betrayal of friends, family and finally oneself.
This review is based on the Video, but hopefully should help in deciding on a purchase of the DVD.
Yes, allowances have been taken - I don't think one could have made a film of this book without taking such allowances. Purists will object, and I'm sure each of us can find fault in some of the choices made, but these choices, by definition, are very subjective. As a whole, on its own the mini-series stand as a brilliant achievement - a great character study of a man's loss of his own character as he descends into dark abysses of continuous duplicity.
Peter Egan, a surprising choice for the role, does an outstanding job in the title role. A number of users have commented on how inappropriate he is for the role. I disagree, and again, I think the problem is the subjectivity of the subject. So much of the movie is based on his inner feelings and it is hard to convey that to the viewer. Some might prefer a more robust expression of his inner turmoil, but that does not really fit well with the character. I think, his more subtle approach is much more engaging and truer to what I imagined in the book - of course, others may have imagined differently and for them this may become a problem with his portrayal.
Overall an outstanding adaptation of the Le Carre book. Be forewarned that, just like the book, it is long and deliberately slow moving and may not be for everyone. Very little 'action' as such, but an exceptional character study of what makes a 'Perfect' Spy. There is a certain sadness which permeates the film, and becomes quite powerful at the end. Highly, highly recommended for those who prefer thoughtful, deliberately paced movies.
IMDB users have given this film an extremely high 8.8 (out of 10) rating as of January 2007.
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