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147 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Television Drama at its Best!
At the risk of having my name added to the non-existent list of a 'non-existent' organization, I strongly recommend director Tim Fywell and writer Peter Moffat's "Cambridge Spies" as television drama at its finest. The portrayals are brilliant: the subtle nuances of Toby Stephens' Philby; the ambiguity of Samuel West's Blunt; the vulnerability of Rupert Penry-Jones'...
Published on 27 Feb 2005 by F. S. L'hoir

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The spies who came out from the sandstone?
Imagine yourself in a world in which fantasy overtakes reality; this is that world. Seemingly serious traitors are transformed before your eyes into effete, privileged Reilly candidates (he of 'life of Reilly'). The establishment is portrayed as idiotic and blind, creaking in the back ground like an old, gay transvestite. In the foreground are the alleged traitors, all...
Published 5 months ago by nofeargirl


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147 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Television Drama at its Best!, 27 Feb 2005
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
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At the risk of having my name added to the non-existent list of a 'non-existent' organization, I strongly recommend director Tim Fywell and writer Peter Moffat's "Cambridge Spies" as television drama at its finest. The portrayals are brilliant: the subtle nuances of Toby Stephens' Philby; the ambiguity of Samuel West's Blunt; the vulnerability of Rupert Penry-Jones' Maclean; and finally, the brilliance of Tom Hollander's Burgess. Hollander's portrayal of the outrageous original is so convincing that when one reads Guy Burgess' actual quoted words, one 'hears' Tom Hollander.

Moody and suspenseful, the drama dwells on a theme worthy of Sophoclean tragedy: the conflict between the obligations to oneself (friends and family) and the obligations to the State. Each of the characters, tragically flawed, reaches what seems to be the pinnacle of success, only to suffer a reversal of fortune and be cast down by outside events (here, the intrusion of the Cold War). The tragedy in Mr. Moffat's drama rests not in the fact that Philby, Blunt, Maclean and Burgess spied for the other side. These are mere plot points in an Aristotelian sense (although the repercussions on the State cannot be denied). The tragedy derives from the fact that as each man is compelled to betray his ideals, friends or family, he recognizes the enormity of that betrayal.

We can only hope that Mr. Fywell and Moffat are planning a second series (The film-makers have already hinted at Philby's affair in Moscow with Melinda Maclean.). There are at least four more absorbing episodes: Philby's relentless grilling in London by MI5, his subsequent adventures in Beirut, his defection and miserable reception in Moscow, where he, like Burgess and Maclean, had to face the even colder reality of Russian Winters and the frost-bitten remnants of his utopian dreams, and finally Blunt's secret confession, promise of immunity, and eventual unmasking in London. Then the tragedy will be complete.
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140 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Success from BBC, 27 Oct 2003
By 
Andrey Kirillov (Samara, Russia) - See all my reviews
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“Cambridge Spies” is a new drama hit from BBC. It portrays the story of the famous (or infamous) Cambridge Five: Kim Philby (Toby Stephens), Guy Burgess (Tom Hollander), Anthony Blunt (Samuel West), Donald Maclean (Rupert Penry-Jones) and John Cairncross.
The four-episode film certainly deserves your close attention thanks to the solid BBC production, good acting of the four leading actors, a thorough historical examination of relationships between the men, and a near-perfect integrity of the whole project. The film has its strong sides, as well as some minor drawbacks. It has got mixed reception from the critics, but who ever listens to critics when it comes to a gripping story narrated with the traditional excellent type of sets and cast that has never left BBC dramas recently. It is fortunate that the story was first put to the screen by BBC, rather than some Hollywood studio. The Americans would certainly make it a melodramatic epic movie, claiming that they are the sole winners of the WWII and that they were badly deceived by the British and the Soviets.
“Cambridge Spies” covers roughly the 20-year period from 1934 to 1954, from Cambridge where the four future geniuses of espionage (Philby, Blunt, Burgess and Maclean) meet, through the war in Spain, Paris shortly before invasion, London during war time, Washington DC, to the white cliffs of Dover that Burgess and Maclean see for the last time in their lives on leaving England for ever. It touches upon such pages of history as pre-war warm attitudes to Hitler among English aristocrats including the Royal Family, Enigma codes, A-bomb secrets. The span of real events is enormous, and in every case some one or all four of the group are involved, as they worked for the British Intelligence agencies, BBC, and the Royal Family.
But what this film is really about, to my mind, is the relationship between the four men and their way in treachery; their idealism at the beginning and struggle with themselves at the end. It is a film about a life of a spy, when his every move is being monitored by both sides, when he is not free to leave, when he is supposed to throw his personal happiness aside if his masters require.
Kim Philby has to leave his wife, an Austrian immigrant; Donald Maclean has to stay in when he wants to stay out and with his family. Anthony Blunt begins as the strongest, the driving force and the one taking care of the rest, but becomes a man with shaking hands and shaken spirit. Guy Burgess has to deceive his former boyfriend and pretend to be what he is not for the cause; he drenches himself in sex and drinking. But what keeps them all together, no matter what happens to them and to the country, is their friendship. It is the real thing for them, something that doesn’t let one fall.
By the end of their careers they become different men, in a sense. Philby becomes the major agent, with Blunt retreating to the shadow, Maclean experiencing family and career crisis, Burgess further misbehaving and almost always drunk. But friendship never fails them, they are ready to shield each other from danger and forgive small sins.
A great deal of attention is given to the topic of homosexuality, since both Blunt and Burgess are homosexuals. But if Burgess is quite open about it, regularly visits public lavatories in search of a new boy, Blunt is a quiet type, only sometimes giving way to feelings. The all-men establishment seems to be quite homosexual on the whole, with top people in Cambridge being gay, and closing their eyes on the little sins of promising students from good families, although sodomy is still a major offence.
The drawbacks of this film include some points of historical inaccuracy, and putting the fifth man, John Cairncross, rather in shadow. So, the film appears to be of the Cambridge Four instead of Cambridge Five.
I highly recommend buying “Cambridge Spies”. You will enjoy the movie. Some compare it with “Brideshead Revisited”, but the comparison is far from the truth. “Cambridge Spies” is much more thrilling, vivid, emotional, controversial. Another success of the BBC drama team bound to be a favourite with viewers.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't stop there!, 26 Nov 2009
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This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Read F. S. L'hoir's review where he states at the end "We can only hope that Mr. Fywell and Moffat are planning a second series (The film-makers have already hinted at Philby's affair in Moscow with Melinda Maclean.). There are at least four more absorbing episodes."

I couldn't agree more - I can't understand why the production stopped where it did? There was plenty of the story still to tell, leading up to Thatcher's denunciation of Blunt in the House, and indeed now with the publication of his papers in July 2009 held in secret for 25 years by agreement.

Excellent apart from that though - I also loved Hollander's performance. While reading around the subject, I am a huge fan of Le Carre, I had not realised that David Cornwall's career had been impacted by Philby and co.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but scenes missing?, 23 Aug 2005
By 
W. Rodick (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Five stars without hesitation had it not been for my feeling that their were scenes missing. I could have sworn that the Queen spoke to her Head of Art about Titian and spoke of fakes and deceit to this key Cambridge spy but not in this DVD edition.
Compelling viewing in the light of recent events in the evolution of State control and accountability. The script is dripping with insight not always black and white. The characters have a dream-like quality to them, a vivid intensity so often lacking in humans these days. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The spies who came out from the sandstone?, 18 April 2014
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This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Imagine yourself in a world in which fantasy overtakes reality; this is that world. Seemingly serious traitors are transformed before your eyes into effete, privileged Reilly candidates (he of 'life of Reilly'). The establishment is portrayed as idiotic and blind, creaking in the back ground like an old, gay transvestite. In the foreground are the alleged traitors, all privileged and moneyed, semi-gay, and totally so, your archetypal 'public' school boys with a little 'b'. It was difficult to watch, not because l am homophobic; l am not, but because the storyline is weak and silly and full of something that isn't there, but pretends to be. I particularly dislike the 'Russian' contact, all open and cool, unbelievable. The only saviour is Burgess, who provides a little light entertainment throughout.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cambridge Spies, 26 July 2010
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This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
This series missed me when it was first transmitted but, after watching it, I was surprised I had never heard of it. This is a very well acted programme with moments of wit, pathos and excitement. It revealed the characters who I had known about for many years but had not fully understood how they found themselves portrayed as traitors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Class Cast - First Class Script, 25 May 2014
By 
John Joyce "Author - Masterpiece" (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I found the dramatisation of the Kim Philby/Guy Burgess group to be absolutely fascinating to the point where I watched the complete set of DVDs back to back. The atmosphere of the era, in which communism was seen as a worthy alternative to fascism during World War II and the romantic notion that it might remain that way is convincingly conveyed by the script. The cast is stellar and the overall feel is of an extremely high class production.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new angle on these people, 28 April 2013
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This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I had not realised how these 4 people had really become linked, the casting is brilliant, the actors look remarkably like the real people so it is all very authentic feeling. Somehow you begin to understand and even empathise with the treachery, the people behind the story is made far more clear than it ever has been before. Gripping film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cambridge, 21 Aug 2012
This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Excellent series. Brilliantly acted. Caught the time period perfectly. The intensity of the group of graduates portrayed and their close bond was well caught. Good history lesson. Well directed. Amusing, the amount of heavy smoking but reflects that time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not precise, 26 Dec 2010
This review is from: Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
This series is very interesting and informative. It does, however, suffer somewhat from conjectures that do not always tally with history - at times it inserts historically known episodes into the wrong context. It ties the four perperators closer together than history indicates, with more internal contact . Also, the final scene comes across as a kind of glorification of the quartet's treasonous bevaviour.
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Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003]
Cambridge Spies [DVD] [2003] by Tom Hollander (DVD - 2003)
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