John le Carré’s novels of national intelligence and international espionage during the Cold War arrived as an antidote to the Bond novels of the 1950s and spy fantasy movies of the 1960s and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, his third novel, perfected his morally ambivalent perspective. This is a culture where ordinary, drab men toil away unglamorously in the shadows while bureaucrats make calculated decisions and spin elaborate schemes that put men in harm’s way. The book was published in 1963 and in 1965 it became the first of le Carré’s novels adapted for the big screen.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is directed and produced by the versatile Martin Ritt, an American with a legacy of intelligent films and mature themes, including the somber, subdued, conflicted modern western Hud. He brings the same commitment to le Carre’s vision. It’s shot on location in Britain and Europe with a British screenwriter, crew, and cast, and it has a sensibility marinated in British restraint and Le Carre’s ambivalence and mistrust of methods and motivations on both sides of the Cold War.