March 4, 2009
Master of Spys
Watched Body of Lies recently. Very serviceable modern espionage movie, very informed, very slick. I never get tired of Ridley Scott's style, no matter how many visual tricks he pulls out. Good work from the stars - Leo as the hero, of course. And Russell Crowe makes a great moral cesspool as his CIA boss. Do you guys like Crowe better in his made of iron body or his spare tire body? I think his acting is better when he carries a spare.
But the guy who steals the movie is Mark Strong as Hani Salaam, Director of Jordanian Intelligence. Salaam is cultured, sophisticated and polite. He is a certain ally in the shifting, uncertain world of espionage. And he will burn your ass to the ground with supreme ruthlessness if you cross him.
Which got me to thinking about spymasters, a type of character who've I've always found fascinating as part of my larger infatuation with all things spycraft. So I present to you The Craig's top five spymasters of all time:
5. Peter Firth as Harry Pearce in Spooks. My new ideal. Alternatively ruthless and compassionate. A morally compromised moral center. The spymaster as a human being.
4. Mark Strong as Hani Salaam in Body of Lies. See above. Do not lie to him.
3. Alec Guinness as George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Mr Smiley is a different kind of creature. The spymaster as shlub. Yeah he's over the hill, on the outs with his bosses, and his wife left him. But he's going to find that mole, damn the consequences.
2. "Wild Bill" Donovan as himself. Founded the OSS, which became the CIA. Played the game during WW2 and won. For real, unlike the rest of these fictional losers.
1. Judi Dench as M in Casino Royale. Sure, there were other M's and they all disapproved of James Bond's antics. But when Dame Dench disapproves of Bond, I sit up straighter in my theater seat.