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Inevitably the story suffers from the basically repellent quality of its raw material. Determinedly non-judgemental, it frequently stumbles along a precarious path between romantic eulogy and fact-based fable of the perils of idealism. For all the handsome casting, the characters have little charm to compensate for their deeds. Their motivations are sketched only vaguely. Even in moments of personal vulnerability, however poignant the performances, sympathy is at a premium. But it has its high points as an atmospheric soap opera: the recreation of a period that stretches from the radical aspects of 1930s university life at Cambridge to Cold War London, dipping into the Spanish Civil War and the Washington diplomatic circle en route, is vivid. The acting, too, is fine. Tom Hollander's rampantly dissolute Burgess verges constantly on parody. But Toby Stephens (Philby), Samuel West (a frosty Blunt) and Rupert Penry-Jones (an emotionally wrung-out MacLean) work wonders with Peter Moffat's insubstantial script.
On the DVD: Cambridge Spies is a handsome production with a cinematic quality enhanced by an appropriately edgy soundtrack and widescreen presentation. The main extra is the commentary shared by director Tim Fywell, producer Mark Shivas and writer Peter Moffat. It's a rather self-congratulatory affair, but includes some interesting insights: attempts to film some events in their real location met with refusal, suggesting that in some quarters, the outrage and embarrassment that Burgess, Philby and MacLean left in their wake is still very close to the surface. --Piers Ford
this is a great and shows how the spy system worked, with great actors in itPublished 18 days ago by Peter McMurray - Cole