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Cambridge Spies

Samuel West^Tom Hollander^Rupert Penry-jones^Toby Stephens    DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 30.98
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Cambridge Spies + The State Within
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Product Description

Cambridge Spies (Dbl DVD)


This moody BBC 2003 dramatization of the most notorious debacle in the history of the British Secret Service raises the specter of the treachery of Philby, Burgess, MacLean, and Blunt for a generation of viewers who can only imagine the shockwaves generated by their duplicity. Inevitably the story suffers from the basically repellent quality of its raw material. Determinedly nonjudgmental, it frequently stumbles along a precarious path between romantic eulogy and fact-based fable of the perils of idealism. For all the handsome casting, the characters have little charm to compensate for their deeds. Their motivations are sketched only vaguely. Even in moments of personal vulnerability, however poignant the performances, sympathy is at a premium. But it has its high points as an atmospheric soap opera: the recreation of a period that stretches from the radical aspects of 1930s university life at Cambridge to cold war London, dipping into the Spanish Civil War and the Washington diplomatic circle en route, is vivid. The acting, too, is fine. Tom Hollander's rampantly dissolute Burgess verges constantly on parody. But Toby Stephens (Philby), Samuel West (a frosty Blunt), and Rupert Penry-Jones (an emotionally wrung-out MacLean) work wonders with Peter Moffat's insubstantial script. --Piers Ford

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THOSE BRITISH FOLKS SURE CAN ACT May 27 2004
This BBC-PBS T.V presentation is superb. It is not something that you can look at while darning socks, knitting, washing dishes, talking on the phone or having an evening party-it is NOT light entertainment. Go to commercial TV for that. You've got to sit-down, shut-up and concentrate on what is going on. In fact, it took me two viewings to fully understand what actually was going on. LISTEN closely; the script is fantastic.
All of the actors are superb with Tom Hollander as Guy Burgess a standout. The production is on a par with some of the best BBC productions that I have had the privilege of seeing. With the gorgeous sets and costumes, it creates a feeling of the era that is being portrayed.
If you are into historical presentations and love superb acting buy this DVD.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ending May 5 2004
By A Customer
The first hour set-up is a bit boring, but it gets much better after that. The bonus features are outstanding and are sufficient alone to purchase this set. Regarding the movie itself, however, I was very disappointing with the ending. Basically, the film ends when Burgess and MacLean defect to Mosocw. Thus, it does not include the remaining 12 years of Philby's spying, nor the eventually unmasking of Blunt. Additionally, Philby's relationship with CIA Chief of Counterintelligence James Jesus Angleton is vastly underrepresented -- particularly as it is germain to at least a portion of Philby's access while he was posted to the British Embassy in the U.S. Lastly, there are several very glaring factual inconsistencies, though the disclaimer at the beginning of the movie acknowledges that the makers took poetic license for "dramatic effect". Frankly, the true story is dramatic enough, and I feel (like a previous reviewer) that this movie was a bit of a lost opportunity to tell the whole story accurately. That said, it still is a decent-enough movie, and worth purchase for the bonus features which contain actual footage of the spies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed Opportunity Nov. 28 2003
The true story of the Cambridge spies is a fascinating chapter in the history of espionage but it is also a study in the English class system. Four upper class idealists who were rather ignorant about the system they were spying for whilst betraying the system that allowed them wealth and opportunity out of reach of the common man.
This dramatization is too detailed on romance and does not focus on the real events enough. The amazing aspect is that they got away with it for so long but there should have been more explananation of the changing world events to illustrate this. The motivation of the four is never clear and the damage they caused is never explained.
If you like English dramas, you will probably like this. But for me far too much time is dedicated to the love affairs of the group and even though you would expect a true story about espionage during world war II and the cold war would be thrilling and exhilarating this is rather dull and boring. Good acting, good direction but a bit too much soft focus.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine acting and storytelling Nov. 23 2003
By A Customer
Watching "Cambridge Spies" on BBCAmerica was eye-opening and insightful. By now, most viewers will have heard of Britain's most notorious spy ring. The story of the traitors (I was surprised the BBC hasn't lauded them as heroes) is edited and condensed quite well to fit miniseries time constraints. While in most movies there is at least one character to empathize or sympathize with, there is no character here that one feels inspired to "understand." One finds himself or herself just waiting to find out how and when these folks "got what was coming to them." Overall, the acting was superb, especially that of Toby Stephens. (Sidebar: He's the young Clint Eastwood in "Space Cowboys," if you can believe that. The guy's got a wide acting range.) As a avid viewer of BBCAmerica, I look forward to more terrific series as this one.
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