(Air Date: Week Of 8/16/87)
The British are fascinated with members of its upper classes who continue to enjoy their positions of privalege while betraying Queen and country as Soviet spies. This obsession has evolved into plays and films like "Another Country" and "Blunt", and many books, one of which, by John Hale is now being released as "The Whistle Blower", starring Michael Caine.
The most intriguing question, why does a pampered aristocrat turn traitor?, is one that screenwriter Julian Bond does not really try to answer in depth. There is still plenty of meat, however, in this gripping story of an agonised father's attempts to uncover the mystery behind the death of his much-loved son. Espionage is shown as a venomous game, mostly populated by players who neither know its true rules nor would understand them even if they did.
As always, Michael Caine is excellent as Frank Jones, the businessman whose unquestioning faith in England is shattered by what he learns about her intelligence agencies. He is surrounded by an outstanding cast. James Fox portrays a chilling agent who euphemises his deadliest work as "assessing the damage". Nigel Havers, in a slender but memorable role, turns in an appealing performance. Barry Foster's over-the-top style is well-suited to his portrait of a man way out of his league. Sir John Gielgud, in a part clearly fashioned after Sir Anthony Blunt, remains a charming puzzle. Intelligence agent Gordon Jackson shares a brief, classy sequence with David Langton. It is stylishly directed, as is the entire movie, by David's son, Simon Langton, in his feature film debut after a long apprenticeship on British television, including "Upstairs, Downstairs".
One character observes that "the secret world" of British intelligence is "beyond the law". It is revealing that the Royal family serve as the film's framing device. Royalty has always been an attractive smokescreen for political shenanigans. As Frank Jones, Michael Caine lends an individual's conscience to the cold-blooded spying activities of today, If innocents are murdered when they stumble onto the truth and their bereaved families are neutralized with charges of insanity when they question the wisdom of such policies, if treacherous courtiers have tea with the Queen while intelligence agencies "asses the damage" they have done, the division between good and evil blurs. "The Whistle Blower" makes a penetrating stab at showing who the enemy might really be.
Copyright 1987 Monica Sullivan
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