The Ipcress File
Directed by Sidney Furie. UK. 1965. NR. 109 minutes. Universal. 35mm.
Sun., March 4, 2012
Early in his screen career (even before he hit it really big with his breakout role as Alfie in 1966), Michael Caine was becoming quite a well-known actor in his native Britain. One of his most highly-regarded performances from that period was as star of this tense and complex spy thriller. At a time when spy thriller generally referred to the wild, over-the- top shenanigans of the James Bond films, this was an exciting, often droll exercise in intelligent intelligence work, based upon the best-seller by Len Deighton. Caine plays the bespectacled Harry Palmer, a somewhat shifty cockney British army sergeant who is caught dealing in the black market and is forced to do penance by serving as a counterintelligence agent in cold-war Berlin. Rather that being a Bondian super-spy, he is more of a regular bloke, thrust into dangerous situations that build tension and rely on his resourcefulness and wit. NOTE: The success of this film led to two sequels, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain, both starring Caine; however, this is roundly regarded as being the best of the bunch. Watch it and find out why. (Bill Roth)