The Ipcress Dossier: Joe Cole’s Young Harry Palmer Undermines Solid Cold War Drama
REVIEW: Before Messrs Potter and Windsor, there was Harry Palmer.
Originally played by Michael Caine in a trio of films in the mid-1960s, the disgraced British sergeant-turned-spy was a bespectacled counterpoint to James Bond, whose deliberately pessimistic escapades were more serious than glamorous.
Now The ObserverThe literary creation of former food correspondent Len Deighton, which debuted in print in 1962, is back in a new six-part adaptation of his first adventure. The Ipcress folder (now screened on Acorn TV).
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Our initial backdrop is West Berlin in 1963 and Harry (Peaky Blinders‘ Joe Cole) has earned a reputation for getting things done, whether it’s ‘sorting out’ American whiskey for the locals or speeding up the quarantine of the General’s dog.
However, when his latest covert operation is announced as it nears a successful conclusion, he finds himself facing an eight-year term in Colchester military prison. That is, until the kidnapping of a British nuclear scientist was traced to a Berlin-based Russian “businessman” whose known associates include a certain Sergeant Palmer.
Cue Colchester Prisoner 17315 is visited by Major Dalby (Tom Hollander), the head of a top secret Whitehall security unit. He makes Harry an offer he cannot resist – temporary release and the promise to seek to “improve your terms”, in return for using his “friendship” to ensure the kidnapped boffin’s safe return.
However, trusting the ‘very smart, suspicious and mean man’ will cooperate is a huge risk and then there is the potential unreliability of Harry himself, especially when he has a suitcase full of cash easily hidden away. at Berlin station.
Although seemingly closer to Deighton’s original book than the famous 1965 film version, this Ipcress file is still its own beast.
Mc Mafia director James Watkins and Shallow Grace Writer John Hodge does an effective job of creating a sense of space and place (Cold War Berlin) and builds the tension well in the first episode to an extremely thrilling and tense finale.
While casting might be predictable, Hollander (Baptist, The night manager) is suitably inscrutable as Dalby seemingly always ahead, while Lucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody) is an inescapable presence as his best agent Jean Courtney (whose parents believe she makes tea for the BBC World Service).
However, if there is a weak point, it is Harry himself. Although Cole isn’t a slug in action and action stakes, he feels like the wrong person here. Looking like 30 out of 13, this Harry never really convinces, despite his confident swagger.
It’s a shame because the world built around it definitely has the potential to be entertaining and captivating.
The Ipcress folder is now available to stream on Acorn TV.