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A Perfect Spy 1987

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When top British secret agent Magnus Pym (Peter Egan) goes missing, the service has to employ another spy of equal calibre to track him down. Pym, meanwhile, has embarked on another kind of search, in an attempt to discover his true identity.

Starring:
Rüdiger Weigang, Ray McAnally
Rental Formats:
DVD

Product Details

Discs
  • Perfect Spy, A - Disc 1 ages_15_and_over
  • Perfect Spy, A - Disc 2 ages_15_and_over
  • Perfect Spy, A - Disc 3 ages_15_and_over
Runtime 6 hours 14 minutes
Starring Rüdiger Weigang, Ray McAnally, Jane Booker, Peter Egan, Sarah Badel, Alan Howard, Peggy Ashcroft
Director Peter Smith
Genres Drama
Studio 2 ENTERTAIN VIDEO
Rental release 6 June 2005
Main languages English
Hearing impaired subtitles English

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Peter Egan, the nominal star of this serial, makes his first appearance in episode 3. In the first two episodes we see his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. The pacing is very slow at the beginning. Flashback sequences would have alleviated this, but the programme can be seen as an excellent antidote to the frantic cutting of modern television productions.

This role is Egan's best performance I have seen to date. In one scene he sits in a restaurant with his father and you see his attitude melt from bitterness to unwilling humour by facial expressions alone. Egan also impressively portrays the ambiguousness of the enigmatic Magnus Pym, an ambivalence that inhabits every part of his life - personal or professional.

By episode 5 the story is in full flow, and the building sense of unease compels you to watch. Magnus's life looks set to unravel. His spy bosses, his wife, even his young son begin to perceive what kind of man he is. Only Magnus's father accepted him for himself, for there is a subtle but clear similarity between them. Again, Peter Egan is convincing enough for you to lose yourself in the drama.

One of the most fascinatingly mysterious characters is Axel, who crops up throughout Pym's life and, it seems, will be a major force in his destiny.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading the book and a few years later I enjoyed listening to the unabridged audiobook. Now I've finally watched the TV series and enjoyed that as well. It really does the book justice. A nice bonus is that the picture quality of this BBC DVD is fantastic, a lot better than you usually get with an old TV series, maybe the best I've seen of all the old Brit TV shows from the 70s, 80s and 90s. The picture quality is massively better than similar series such as Smiley's People or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Those have the full complement of artefacts of analogue videotape with blown highlights, noisy shadows, poor sharpness, low resolution, muddy colours and so on. When enjoying A Perfect Spy one is not distracted from the content by the limitations of the medium or presentation. I can't imagine a series like this making it to the screen these days. The first two episodes (55 minutes each) would probably be wrapped up in 15 minutes or rendered as narrative destroying flashbacks over the entire series in a modern version, but actually all the detail and content matters, and fortunately it is brilliantly executed. Every texture and nuance and event early in the story has repercussions later on. There isn't the amazing pace of a modern TV series, instead you have flavour and lasting satisfaction. Many performances are exceptional, none are less than very good.
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Format: VHS Tape
I only leave off the fifth star because this is ultimately less satisfying than the previous LeCarre adaptations by the BBC. But it is still a towering achievement, especially when compared to the glossy but hollow dramas which which we must make do with nowadays. This is a powerful tale, almost Tolstoyan in its ambition: epic and intimate, specific and universal. My only qualm is over the aging of the actors: I suppose it always difficult to cast a story which follows a set of characters over several decades, but I do not feel that they solved it very well here. Some characters seem ageless, others prematurely aged. It's a small quibble, but a quibble none the less. TV is so much better a medium than film for adaptations of demanding fiction of this type that one wonders why it hasn't been exploited more often: Grahame Greene's work, for instance, would benefit from the treatment.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is just about a perfect spy story. Of the three Le Carre yarns given the BBC treatment, it could be said that "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is a "whodunnit" and "Smiley's People" a "howdunnit", while "A Perfect Spy" is a "whydunnit". The "why" question is usually the most interesting, which is why I rate this above the other, admittedly fine, productions. Peter Egan and Ray McAnally - father and son - are superb in every scene together, showing how two fundamentally different people can forge a single identity of deception, true only to each other in a dreadful way. The portrait of Magnus Pym is carefully and convincingly drawn: it could be said to represent not just a perfect spy, but a psychological template for every spy. The supporting cast of Alan Howard, Rudiger Weigang and Jane Booker, in particular, are terrific. The whole production showcases the best of a strong era for television drama in the UK.
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Format: DVD
The previous Le Carre adaptations lit up by Alec Guiness's near legendary performance as George Smiley make anything seem poor by comparison, which is a shame because this is a beautifully crafted series. It is by 2005 standards built rather slowly, but the way Pym unfolds towards his downfall is superbly managed. I think this TV series is actually about as close to the effect and quality of reading an absorbing book as you can get. There are no real fireworks in it - but it is very, very good.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This John Le Carre adaptation is almost as good as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, there's no legendary performances here but the screen play by Arthur Hopcraft and a strong cast make it a pleasurable viewing experience. The suspense and understanding the psychology of a spy builds through each episode and for such a slow paced film at times it really is surprising edge of the seat stuff. Just a quick note on Peter Egen, at first i had trouble not picturing him standing next to Richard Briers (Everdecreasing Circles) but once you get over this initial shock by the end you realise what good job he does for the part and that he is actually a rather splendid actor.
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