Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The (1965)

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), produced and directed by Martin Ritt.

Control and Smiley -- both with small parts in this one -- have an assignment for field agent Alec Leamas. As is always the case with John le Carré we are not told the details or goal and have to figure it out as we go. Leamas is to quit the secret service, become drunk and dissolute and be recruited by the East Germans as a traitor. And then?

In a deception story we need to know: who are the insiders, the smart guys, and who are the targets, the victims or marks? The dramatic developments, the apparent reversals and disasters: are they all part of the clever plan or is the plan broken, leaving not only the viewer but the participants in unknown territory?

At the end of the trial scene we have the wrenching moment, wonderfully played by Richard Burton, when Leamus realizes the awful truth: he's a mark, not a smart guy. His own people have played him.

Control explained it to him at the outset with his little lecture on ruthlessness, but neither he nor we understood his meaning at the time. He and Smiley are bastards. They don't totally throw Leamus to the wolves: Smiley tries to get him back over the Wall. Just him: not the woman sacrificed to perfect the plan.

Fine cast, tragic story, melancholy rainy day score by Sol Kaplan.

Criterion Blu-ray.