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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)


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Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 1



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Movie Info

Based on the novel by John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold stars Richard Burton as a dispirited, end-of-tether British secret agent. He comes in from "the cold" (meaning he is pulled out of field operations) to act as a undercover man behind the Iron Curtain. To make his staged defection seem genuine, Burton goes on an alcoholic toot and is imprisoned and publicly humiliated. Once he has been accepted into East German espionage circles, Burton discovers that what he thought was his

Jul 13, 2004

Paramount Pictures

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All Critics (13) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (11) | Rotten (2) | DVD (13)

An excellent contemporary espionage drama of the Cold War which achieves solid impact via emphasis on human values, total absence of mechanical spy gimmickry, and perfectly controlled underplaying.

December 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What finally impresses, however, is the sheer seediness of so much of the film, with characters, buildings, and landscapes lent convincingly grubby life by Oswald Morris' excellent monochrome camera-work.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film makes you believe it could have happened. And that's the remarkable thing.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Grim, monotonous, and rather facile, though Richard Burton's aging agent has some honest poignancy.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
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This pitch-perfect adaptation of John le Carré's best-seller captures the Cold War in all its chilly complexity ... Burton delivers a towering performance that's second only to his turn in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as the finest of his career.

September 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Self-consciously dour where the James Bond movies were insouciantly callous.

November 25, 2008 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Brilliant depiction of humanity's foibles

February 6, 2007

Ritt helms one of the better spy dramas.

January 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Grim and beautifuly shot in black and white by Oswald Morris, Martin's Ritt's spy drama features a great, Oscar-nominated performance from Richard Burton, reflecting the surrounding Cold War culture.

June 12, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Sad and chilly.

July 6, 2004 Full Review Source:

Burton's burnt out turn is one of the best of his career.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

Audience Reviews for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

This film's entire existence is merely as an real world answer to the James Bond craze prevalent in its day and then simply to say: "that's not true." Well what is the truth then? Sad little men sulking in shadows, lying to everyone, especially themselves. Burton is really good as one of the men, a guy who hates himself playing a guy who hates himself playing a guy who hates himself. Its really grim but good.
September 6, 2012

Super Reviewer

Stunning and rich visuals, but the storyline really drags in many parts of the film.
March 16, 2011
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

decent thriller, full of espionage and counter-espionage. Richard Burton is the ingredient that makes this film work.
December 12, 2008

Super Reviewer

Directed by Martin Ritt,"the Spy Who Came In From The Cold" is an adaption of John Le Carre's best selling novel about a reluctant British double agent,offers effectively restrained performance by Richard Burton in the title role;Claire Bloom,as an idealistic British communist who becomes the spy's lover during his undercover operation;and Oskar Werner as an East German interrogator. The drab cold war atmosphere is deftly evoked by Oswald Morris's elemental black-and-white photography and the cramped sets designed by Tambi Larsen and Hal Pereira. But Martin Ritt's film means less without its popular foil. Released in 1965,as the same year "The Ipcress File",and the 007 thriller "Thunderball",the fourth of the phenomenally successful James Bond films starring Sean Connery,"the Spy Who Came In The Cold" consistently positions itself as a rebuke to the glamourous,action movie ethos of the Bond films:no fancy gadgets or bikini-clad beauties here,only a pinched and dingy universe in which the moral compass spins without direction.
If Ritt has a limtation as a director,it is his tendency to use drama to demonstrate,to turn his characters into masterpieces for the moral and political values he wants to compare and contrast. For a film about ambiguity-do the actions of Burton's character make him a hero or a dupe or a man who just froze up during his mission. Of one of the most interesting films of the mid-1960's,"The Man Who Came In From The Cold" ultimately seems pat and predictable but well done.
November 30, 2008
Mister Caple

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Der Spion, der aus der Kälte kam (DE)
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (UK)
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