Recently bemoaning the dearth of sparkling thrillers, I came to the eight-episode streaming adaptation, ”The Ipcress File,” of Len Deighton’s classic 1962 spy novel (which I had forgotten was, incredibly given its stature now, his debut) with rank trepidation. I need not have fussed, for this rendition, scripted by John Hodges and directed by James Watkins, is superb from the opening scenes. Capturing perfectly the 60s vibe, the Cold War backdrop, the period placement, and Deighton’s exaggerated but oh-so-true-to-the-times plot, it powers along with precision, thrills, and wit. Joe Cole, whom I’m watching in Peaky Blinders in catch-up mode, is vastly distinct as neophyte secret agent Harry Palmer from Michael Caine (who starred as Palmer in three films from 1965) but just as effective, never playing a false note and easily warmed to. The script increases the class aspect of Harry Palmer, a move executed with elegance. Lucy Boynton is stellar as fellow spy Jean, here given a much enhanced role, and Tom Hollander shines as Dalby the meister-spy. The theme music and soundtrack are aptly nuanced and the cinematography is wonderful to watch. Pacing of the six episodes proceeds cleverly, with a rather blithe early mood darkening considerably by the end.
All in all, The Ipcress File deserves to be classic spy movie material and I hope Season 2 can be confirmed soon.