Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, who produce the Bond razamatazz, diversify by bringing to the screen a kind of ‘anti-Bond’ spy in the character of Harry Palmer, based on Len Deighton’s novel. The result is probably rather more true to the facts of intelligence life than the Bond world of fantasy.
Intelligence man Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) is an undisciplined sergeant who is seconded to intelligence work and finds that it is more legwork and filling in forms than inspired hunches and glamorous adventure.
Present adventure concerns the steps taken to retrieve a missing boffin and involves the agent being captured by the enemy and subjected to acute brainwashing. Pic does not build up to the type of suspense usually demanded of such thrillers.
Sidney J. Furie’s direction, allied with Otto Heller’s camera, provides some striking effects. But sometimes he gets carried away into arty-crafty fields with low-angle shots and symbolism adding to the confusion of the screenplay.
Caine skillfully resists any temptation he may have had to pep up the proceedings. In fact, his consistent underplaying adds considerably to the pull of the picture.