Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time!
Empire's Guardians Of The Galaxy Cover
Does Star Wars Have A Brain Trust?
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: 6 Issues For £15!
Subscribe today and save 37% off the cover price!
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Sue Lloyd
Gordon Jackson
Michael Caine
Nigel Green
Guy Doleman.
Directors
Sidney J Furie.
Screenwriters
Bill Canaway
James Doran.
Running Time
109 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
A Night At The Cinema In 1914
4 Star Empire Rating
Hide Your Smiling Faces
4 Star Empire Rating
A Promise
1 Star Empire Rating
Nut Job, The
2 Star Empire Rating
Mr. Morgan's Last Love
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating

The Ipcress File
Caine is Harry Palmer - Len Deighton's anti-Bond


submit to reddit


Plot
A number of leading Western scientists have been kidnapped only to reappear a fews days later. Unfortunately, each scientist has been brain washed and is now completely useless. The British send their agent, Harry Palmer, to investigate. Palmer is surprised to be selected for such a mission (considering his past) and believes he has been chosen because he is expendable.


Review
The Ipcress File
In the 60s the secret agent emerged as premier screen hero, cold warrior and sex symbol. No one could touch Sean Connery's James Bond — until Michael Caine's Harry Palmer. Palmer was the creation of novelist Len Deighton, whose Ipcress File was adapted into the first and best of the Palmer thrillers during the goldrush of filmmakers seeking to mine lucrative spy caper franchises. (Funeral In Berlin and Ken Russell's fun Billion Dollar Brain followed in 1966 and 1967.)

Bowing in the same year Bond was saving the world from total destruction in Thunderball, bespectacled Harry, more modestly engaged in slowing the brain drain of British scientists, immediately endeared himself to average blokes. Harry Palmer is forever enshrined as the credible everyman alternative to Bond. In conception and in Caine's performance he was a fantasy figure for guys who wear glasses, people living in anonymous flats, driving unglamorous, functional cars and shopping for groceries after work. You can relate to Harry Palmer. He's capable and crafty. He's sexy. And he can cook.

Bond's fabulous world is one of exotic locations, babes, stupendous stunts, ingenious gadgets and gizmos. It is rich with explosively lavish underground lairs of megalomaniacal masterminds with whom 007 contends when he isn't between the sheets, behind the wheel of an Aston Martin or BMW, in a casino or relaxing with a vodka martini. Palmer's world is surveillance shifts in a grotty attic, furtive shenanigans in British Rail stations, the rendezvous on park benches, an HQ disguised as a domestic employment bureau, and a villains' lair in a disused warehouse. Harry drinks whiskey, plays the horses, is issued the keys to a boring blue Zodiac that doesn't do anything except go, and he is the first swinging London bachelor to be seen grinding his own coffee.

One witty touch hinting at the fact that Harry may have read an Ian Fleming Bond novel or two with relish is his picking a woman's charm bracelet and his gun out of the bed before he leaves for work. What they have in common — in addition to John Barry musical scores accompanying their adventures — is a studied unemotional mien, the ability to focus coolly under pressure, and an insolent disregard for going by the book or kowtowing to bureaucratic disposable replacement for a murdered agent and when — having crossed paths fatefully with the CIA, cracked a dastardly foreign brainwashing, amnesia-inducing plot and exposed a traitor — he later reproaches his boss with, "I might have been killed or driven stark raving mad." He's briskly reminded, "That's what you're paid for." The risks of being killed or driven mad might be preferable to Palmer superiors. Bond has the suave insolence of an Old Etonian. Palmer's is the sturdy insolence of a Cockney squaddie.

An army sergeant assigned to a decidedly unglamorous corner of British Intelligence, Palmer is taken off surveillance and sent to a humble covert Home Office department to aid the search for a snatched physicist precisely because his qualities as an "insubordinate bastard" are called for. He's also a handy than the avalanche of paperwork and codespeak in this spy game. Amusing repeated references to the B107 (Palmer's career record), triplicate Tl 04s, LlOls, a TX82, a 3H, a CC1 — even a park bench is designated T108 — are sufficient motivation to drive him out of the office run by a Fag Ash Lil secretary called Alice. The seasoning of dry humour plays nicely against the subdued but tense cat and mouse action: a silent combat with the bald heavily code-named "House Martin" seen through the glass of a call box; a car park hostage exchange and confrontation; the assassination of Gordon Jackson's Jock after borrowing Harry's car.

These scenarios make the exciting, brutally in-your-face climax of Palmer's abduction and torture the more startling, Palmer enduring through his sheer bloody-mindedness and self-inflicted pain. Director Sidney J. Furie excelled himself pacing Palmer's adventure and got his ticket to Hollywood, where he was thereafter a moderately successful workhorse but never topped The Ipcress File. Caine, Zulu under his belt and Alfie ahead, is the cheeky working class but aspirational bright spark hero par excellence, captured at the exact moment he became a star.


Verdict
Harry Palmer, charismatic but grounded in reality, is the perfect popular bridge between the spectacular escapades of Bond and the cold, harsh milieu of Deighton's embittered, betrayed spies.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Ipcress File
Empire Star Rating

This film is absoloutely fantastic! The John Barry theme is awesome and it oozes with the style of all the 60's spy thrillers. It's one of Caine's earlier roles and he doesn't disappoint at all! This is definetly a must see! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Pavers 123 at 15:24, 27 May 2010 | Report This Post


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
'I Have The Club But I Didn't Get The Lion's Head'
Dwayne Johnson (and pals) talks Hercules props, action and ancient superheroes

Classic Feature: The Making Of The Silence Of The Lambs
Is this the most frightening movie ever made?

Classic Feature: Jack Nicholson - Gods Among Us
Charisma, consistency and cunning summed up in a single word: Jack.

Director Matt Reeves Spills Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Secrets
What we learned from our Empire podcast spoiler special

Peter Fonda On Peter Fonda
The Hollywood legend relives his career highlights

Kevin Feige Talks Ant-Man, Guardians Of The Galaxy And Doctor Strange
The Marvel boss updates us on the state of his cinematic universe

Video: Gary Oldman And Keri Russell Talk Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Would you watch Carry On Up The Planet Of The Apes?

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time Subscribers' Cover

Subscribe today and get the cover and 3 issues for only £10!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)