The Pigeon Tunnel by Errol Morris [9/10]

Documentarian Errol Morris is, I suspect, a matter of personal preference. His offscreen, camera-up-close dissection of his eclectic target list of human subjects could put viewers off. I find his forensic research (he seems to have dug into his subjects’ lives with the passion of an academic historian) and no-holds-barred questioning to be riveting and revelatory. His recent The Pigeon Tunnel tackles famed spy fiction master John le Carré just before his 2020 death, and he finds the master of sleight of hand in a rare revelatory frame of mind. Much of the narrative explored by interlocutor and subject will be familiar to anyone who has read the novels and the previous, often slightly sly autobiographical writings, but Morris elicits truly moving admissions from his subject. Morris uses period and archival footage, plus recreated scenes, to magnificent effect, imbuing the entire documentary with a Cold War dread. The Pigeon Tunnel might seem like it is for specialists only but anyone interested in storytelling, espionage (as an expression of the pleasure of deceit), and truth should lap it up.

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