Wednesday 29 April 2020

The Jigsaw Man - 1983 film review

The Jigsaw Man is a spy thriller, and a pretty strange one. The ingredients are, in many ways, highly impressive. Take the cast, for a start. Not just Michael Caine, but Laurence Olivier, Charles Gray, Susan George, and Robert Powell. Wow! The director was Terence Young, whose CV included several early James Bond films and Wait Until Dark. The screenplay is by Jo Eisinger, whose credits included that excellent film noir Gilda. And there's even a song by Dionne Warwick - 'Only You and I', though it has to be said that it's so obscure that even I, a lifelong Dionne fan, had never heard of it.

How could you possibly go wrong? Especially when Young was directing a film based on a novel written by his wife, Dorothea Bennett (whom he'd given a tiny role in From Russia With Love) and published in 1977, which drew inspiration from the case of Kim Philby.

The film begins with Kimberley, a senior British politician who has defected to Russia, having his death faked. He undergoes plastic surgery and then an intensive physical training regime which makes him look very much like Michael Caine. He returns to the UK to recover some vital information for his paymasters, but promptly defects - so that the KGB, as well as the British police and secret services are after his blood.

It's a good set-up, but the film is a mess. The script is wordy and keeps shifting focus so that, although one would expect Caine to be the key character, he is off-screen for long spells as the story wanders down assorted sidetracks and descends into silliness more than once. I found it impossible to care about what happened to the characters. Dionne's song isn't one of her most memorable, but it was probably the best thing about this odd movie.   

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