The Deadly Affair


Good script, good actors. Sidney Lumet, child actor-turned-steady-handed director of sturdy Hollywood dramas, used to say that a filmmaker needed little more for a flick. There’s some substance there, but this moody adap of John Le Carré’s Call For The Dead needs more drive. Granted, Lumet casts well. A measured James Mason plays a Foreign Office inspector investigating a colleague’s “suicide”. Was it murder? Is there a clue in a letter accusing the victim of communist connections? And could Maximilian Schell look any more guilty? The answers lie in a tangle of espionage and infidelity, which Lumet handles lucidly, leaving room for his cast to find the emotion in the confusion. Despite the jazzy score, this is no exercise in swinging ‘60s over-stylisation: the London setting is less Carnaby Street cool, more glum and rain-lashed. Think an anti-Bond thriller-as-psychodrama, then, but don’t expect much more than a well-crafted, pedestrian slow-burner of intrigue, suspicion and betrayal.


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