Friday, November 13, 2009

The Spook Who Sat By the Door (movie review)

This 1973 classic came with a thumbs up from Dominic and I can see why. Not only do we get a kind of "aggressive response" movie, as the analyst introducing it suggests (he's giving background about the book version) but we get a sneak peak at this CIA business, a chummy frat house having problems integrating, succumbing to political pressure.

Freeman, poetically so named, is forever being told he's a credit to his race, as he rises through the ranks in the copying facility, duplicating state secrets. He feels some frustration with the glacial pace of change, which dino guy says'll be for 10K years or something geological. So he goes back to Chicago to use his CIA skills to incite his old gang, now a generation into shooting pool and floating hookers. Freeman fits right in and before ya know it, all hell breaks loose. The point being: you white guys had better figure out what to do around spooks in the paramilitary.

The movie is kind of old. Fast forward and it's not about breaking the color barrier so much as ending the "fraternity" mindset. Lindsay Moran has much more to work with, including a more bucolic training grounds, not just the urban game of dodge 'em, which this movie explores. There's still lots of bomb making, getting the wires right. Freeman has interesting skills, succeeds in scoring a lot of recruits.

In the real world, you had an epidemic of drug scandals involving Central America, with DCI Deutch showing up in that LA high school to confront parents over the issue, not wanting his agency to take any guff for these Rambo crack heads. He'd been like an MIT prez or something, was more into One Laptop per Child type thinking ala G1G1.

But Freeman couldn't be expected to know any of this (he's not some kind of Incredible, looks stupid doing judo), didn't get much overseas experience, had never seen the inside of any Banana Republic besides his own and Langley's bright whites'. All that being said, he's a smart operative and this movie probably did end up helping with integration, anticipating the later removal of any glass ceiling.

I'm one and a half times through, as I caught myself dosing off a few times during fight scenes, needed to go back. I admire the small budget, clever dialog. More attention deserved, when you've got time to come in from the cold and watch stupid spy movies (a term of endearment you understand).