The great Joe Cole plays the spy in the series ‘The Ipcress File’, a role that Michael Caine has already played in up to five films
It is evident that the irruption of the platforms has not gone hand in hand with new and brilliant ideas. Yes, it is produced more than ever, and yes, a little bit of digging, you can find gems like that ‘Udone’, of which Prime Video has just released the second season, or ‘Kidding’, the fiction about the duel produced by Showtime and starring Jim Carrey, which has been broadcast in our country by Movistar Plus+. However, the bulk of the offer that ends up reaching the platforms smells like something already seen, low risk and, in some cases, a reformulation of the stories that have triumphed decades ago.
What happens is that in some cases the care and affection that these proposals exude, turns them into an appetizing delicacy. This is what happens with ‘Harry Palmer: the Ipcress file’, the new fiction that Movistar Plus+ has been broadcasting since last week, at the rate of one chapter every Monday. The series, structured in six chapters, marks the return of one of the most beloved British spies, with the permission of James Bond himself.
The tallest of the place will know his name because Michael Caine has already put himself in Harry’s shoes in three films ‘Ipcress’ (1965), ‘Funeral in Berlin’ (1966) and ‘A brain of a billion dollars’ ( 1967), as well as in two feature films for television, already outside the novels that Len Deighton wrote between the sixties and the seventies: ‘The Beijing Express’ (1995) and ‘Midnight in Saint Petersburg’ (1996).
Because yes, the portrait of this resolute and cynical working-class intelligence officer was first drawn in the books written by Deighton, an author who is now 93 years old and among whose works, in addition to the espionage novels for which became known, are cookbooks, history and military history. After completing military service in the Royal Air Force, Leighton graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1955 and worked his way through various jobs before becoming a book and magazine illustrator. Not surprisingly, he was responsible for the first British edition of Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ in 1957. A few years later, during a long vacation in France, Leighton wrote his first novel, ‘The Ipcrees File’, which it was published in 1962. Its success was such that it gave rise to another six novels, all focused on this unusual spy.
Interestingly, the protagonist did not even have a name. That was a problem when it came to adapting him to the big screen, so the film production team managed to put one on him. They opted for the most mundane and understated possible, to distance it from Ian Fleming’s sonorous Bond, which by then had three wildly successful movies. Caine recounts in his memoir that producer Saltzman first came up with the last name, Palmer, and then asked the actor, “What’s the most boring name you can think of?” Without hesitation, Caine answered Harry, not realizing that was also the producer’s name. That idea of the anonymous protagonist also gave rise to a curious situation: when ‘Spy Story’ was adapted to the big screen in 1976, the character changed his name to Patrick Armstrong. On that occasion Michael Petrovitch put himself in the shoes of the spy.
a modern classic
Caine is a lot of Caine, but it must be recognized that John Hodge (screenwriter of ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘The Beach’) and James Watkins (creator of ‘McMafia’), writer and director of fiction, respectively, have been right when it comes to place Joe Cole -he gave life to John Shelby in ‘Peaky Blinders’ and Sean Wallace in ‘Gangs of London’- in the role of this British sergeant who, at the beginning of the fiction, is arrested for dealing in the black market in Berlin , in the middle of the Cold War. His dirty look, his cold face and that intellectual demeanor are just perfect for a character who makes more use of his intelligence than his brute force. After a few days in prison, Harry receives an offer from William Dalby (Tom Holander), a gentleman from the English intelligence service. They have kidnapped an English nuclear scientist; if he manages to find him, he will get rid of ending his days in a cell.
With intelligent and elegant dialogues, where irony, sarcasm and bad drool dot almost every line, and a great setting, the first chapter of ‘Harry Palmer: the Ipcress file’ excites. His careful and personal photography, which bets on tilting the camera often, looking for original frames, gives a modern touch to a rather classic content, which is seen in the cinema of the sixties and seventies. As in a good spy and intrigue story, romance will not be lacking either, judging by the first tug-of-war between Harry Palmer and Jean Courtney, the British spy played by the brilliant Lucy Boynton.
‘Harry Palmer: the Ipcress file’ is broadcast on Movistar Plus+.
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