The Little Drummer Girl

In the early 1980s, I read a couple of John LeCarre novels and there was a great TV series that played on PBS featuring Alec Guinness as the spymaster Smiley. It was my friend Art Franz however who was the real fan. He ate up all those books and read everything he could find about the British Spy scandals of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I know that we saw this movie opening weekend and I’m pretty sure it was a foursome which included our wives. Unfortunately, I can’t remember Art’s exact reaction to the film. I think we were both impressed with it, but he may have had some reservations. Since he passed in 1993, I don’t always have a buddy to see a spy movie with that can talk about it fluently. I know, that except for the James Bond films, I don’t ever go back and revisit those films unless they are action based. Maybe that makes me a little shallow, but it did mean that today, when watching this film for the project, it was almost like seeing it for the first time. I did not hold many memories of the film, and the plot threw me for the first hour because it was not exactly clear what was happening.


I was blindsided by the fact that the movie was directed by George Roy Hill, a director who had filmed several of my favorite films but was not known for a distinctive style. The procedural nature of this story does not lend itself well to fancy visual story telling techniques. The plot is drama heavy not action oriented, so in a way he is a good choice for the film, but the lack of distinctive technique probably makes the movie feel a little bit lethargic.

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Our science fiction movie opens with an ominous musical cue and a shot of an ice cave, in light and shadow with the blue tint of the ice popping out dramatically. A helicopter appears and lands to pick up something found in the ice. It is a large block of ice that is then transported to a remote, arctic station, inhabited by scientists.  You could easily infer from this description that you are watching “John Carpenter’s The Thing”. Let’s face it, that is very close to the set up of the action in the earlier movie. This movie however has no real horror elements to it, a much more plausible scientific premise and a cast that includes a lot of fine actors but none as great as Kurt Russell. This movie comes two years after “The Thing” and is a serious eco-drama that has science fiction elements but really wants to comment on the world we live in today.

icemanA largely forgotten film from 1984, “Iceman” stars Timothy Hutton and John Lone as a pair of lost souls who end up helping each other to understand themselves a little bit better.

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