This is an oldie spy film on show in the Irish Film Institute, based on a novel by Len Deighton. It is set in a world of espionage very different from what you see in the Bond films, with no gadgets, a relative shortage of girls being eaten by sharks, and a lot of boring plod work to find out what’s going on. And there is this sense of the intelligence agency as being some kind of grossly dysfunctional hidebound hierarchical organization. So it is all a bit proto John Le Carre, except that the actual plot of the bad guys (to brainwash British scientists so that they will no longer be able to do cutting edge science) is the kind of insano nonsense Bond would have to deal with. Still, great look and feel to it, with 1950s/1960s London intriguingly painted.
The main character (played by Michael Caine) manages to be both a ne’er do well rebel and a glamorous man about town, all the while sporting an amazingly geeky pair of glasses. I like how they establish that he is a bit of a maverick by having him be a good cook (he whips up a tasty looking vegetarian omelette at one point), but the film’s sense of what constitutes good food ingredients is a bit weird… please kill me if I ever find myself shopping for tinned mushrooms or tinned prawn curry. Or maybe this was that 1950s austerity I keep hearing about.
The brainwashing stuff is great crack, all swirl lights and funny voices like in all the best brainwashing scenes in films. They really go for it in this one, and it does remind of all that “Six” “Five!” stuff in “The Prisoner”.