A leisurely spy thriller both in terms of plot, dialogue and character development, this movie still adds up to greater than the sum of its parts.
Chief among the parts are the two opposing chiefs of Max von Sydow as Oktober (charming neo-Nazi bad guy) and Alec Guiness as Pol (cold-hearted English good guy). Both of these fine actors do excellent work with a few scenes. Oktober is the more flamboyant and clichéd part, but von Sydow puts his stamp on it. Pol is all business and a bit of a pedant, and Guiness brings his usual wit and intelligence.
George Segal does interesting, and quite good work, as the lead. Perhaps those who can only recall Segal's recent actor career in comedy/sitcom roles have not caught his work in earlier dramatic films. (I highly recommend Bye Bye Braverman, a black comedy, to see his subtle work.) I think he does a fine job here as Quiller, The Spy Who Seems Too Obvious, and the script, perhaps slightly underwritten, at least gives Segal room to play with this character. Quiller's blustering ways get him quickly noticed, allowing him to infiltrate the neo-Nazi group, without cover or backup. He does have the support of a beautiful school teacher Inge. Or does he?
As for the plot, we get no explanation of why it's important to find this group. It just is. The world's most leisurely chase scene in the last 30 minutes of the film is highly suspenseful, and the resolution is ambiguous in a way that I think today's audiences would think unacceptable. I like unsettling endings; so I found the ending strangely satisfying. Identities, love and other human relationships are never straightforward, and there's nothing like a good spy movie to remind me of that.
Someone above mentioned the Third Man. The last shot (or two) of the movie is highly reminiscent -- perhaps outright lifted. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
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