The Whistle Blower (1986)

screenshot from The Whistle Blower

Directed by: Simon Langton
Screenwriter(s): Julian Bond (from a novel by John Hale)
Starring: Michael Caine, Nigel Havers, Felicity Dean, James Fox, Barry Foster, John Geilgud
Genre: Cold War / Spy / Thriller
Country: UK
Running time: 2h 15m
Rating: 6 out of 10

Michael is Frank Jones, an ex-serviceman who is worried over the behaviour of his only son, Bob (Nigel Havers). Bob is a Russian translator at GCHQ in Cheltenham but finds himself questioning his job and Military Intelligence in general. He worries that his colleagues are being forced to inform on each other's behaviour, while their bosses are clearly protecting their own backs.

First of all, his girlfriend's estranged husband is found to have committed suicide, which Bob believes is murder. Then his colleagues start behaving strangely towards him. He turns to his father, but Frank, who has total faith in the system, advises him to stick with a good career and keep his head down. Then the police turn up at Frank's door, telling him that his son has fallen off the roof of his own building and everyone seems too quick to write it off as an accidental death. And no-one can explain how Bob's usually messy rooms have suddenly become tidier than an army barracks on inspection day.

Caine's anguish, as both a grieving father and disillusioned ex-serviceman, is convincing and Havers is not bad in a thankless role as the wishy-washy, Bob, even though he doesn't look anything like 28 (Bob's age). And it all moves along briskly enough towards a semi-realistic conclusion.

The cast is padded out with faces that will be familiar to UK TV viewers – Gordon Jackson is a shadowy MI6 agent, while Barry Foster crops up as Frank's former friend, who introduced Bob into his career. Sir John Geilgud also enjoys a grand-standing role in the final reel as a well-placed member of the government who has a hand in all the deaths.

While by no means a modern classic, The Whistle Blower is an effective little conspiracy picture about the goings-on within the British spy community.

Other Spy thrillers