The Jigsaw Man (1983)

screenshot from The Jigsaw Man

Directed by: Terence Young
Screenwriter(s): Jo Eisinger (based on a novel by Dorothea Bennett)
Starring: Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier, Robert Powell, Susan George, Charles Gray
Genre: Cold War / Spy / Thriller
Country: UK
Running time: 1h 33m
Rating: 3 out of 10

Michael Caine has made a lot of Cold War thrillers. This is not one of the best. Even the presence of Lord Olivier and the dependable Robert Powell can’t disguise a muddled and unconvincing thriller.

Sir Philip Kimberley (not to be confused with the real-life Kim Philby, obviously), former Director-General of MI6, defected to Russia in the 1970s. A decade later, he finds his services – and his actual existence – no longer required by Mother Russia. But Kimberley (Caine) has one ace left up his sleeve: prior to his defection, he had hidden a list of all the Soviet agents working in the West. He uses this to bargain for his own life for at least a few weeks or months in order to retrieve it.

Following some reconstructive surgery to make him look like Michael Caine and not Brezhnev’s double, he is dispatched back to England. Knowing that he’s dead either way, Kimberley tries to play both of his former employers off each other, hoping to get away free and start a new life for himself and his daughter (Susan George, who suffers from the double indignity of being both miscast and underused).

It’s all fairly pedestrian stuff. There are double crosses, disguises and slow car chases, none of which involve cardboard boxes, a truck full of fruit or even two men carrying a plate glass window.

Caine just strolls through, while Olivier doesn’t even try, although they both still manage to be better than their material. The direction is non-existent, the script trite and – this is the biggest sin – Robert Powell is completely wasted.

So ordinary that you actually forget it while you’re watching it.

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