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The Whistle Blower
The Whistle Blower
Actors: Michael Caine, James Fox, Nigel Havers, John Gielgud, Felicity Dean
Director: Simon Langton
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
PG     2002     1hr 40min

Oscar® winner* Michael Caine gives a riveting performance (The Hollywood Reporter) as an ordinary man caught in a web of corruption and murder in a gripping, tautly handled [and]highly charged (Variety) espionage thril...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Michael Caine, James Fox, Nigel Havers, John Gielgud, Felicity Dean
Director: Simon Langton
Creators: Geoffrey Reeve, Jim Reeve, John Kelleher, Peter Dolman, Philip Nugus, John Hale, Julian Bond
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Espionage, Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 12/03/2002
Original Release Date: 07/10/1987
Theatrical Release Date: 07/10/1987
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 40min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Political drama? Perhaps. Taut espionage thriller? Hardly
jammer | Laramie, Wyoming United States | 04/22/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This reviewer has not read John Hale's novel. An editorial review notes the book is not a spy thriller but rather, "a sad commentary on corruption in intelligence circles." One shouldn't expect "the excitement of a Forsyth, Ludlum, or Higgins." The 36-year-old Nigel Havers (who has a viable "family-resemblance" to his "father" Frank) portrays a 28-year-old Bob Jones. As one intelligence eavesdropper remarks, Bob is a "self-righteous little prick." How true. Bob is a Russian language specialist at British intelligence GCHQ. Despite age and experience, his world view is a 17-year-old's. He sees lies and paranoia throughout GCHQ. "Nothing is as it is made out to be." Bob sees "burglary, bribery, blackmail, drug trafficking ... (even) murder!" (the horror, the horror). Why, (he says) "Our secret world is on exactly the same tack as theirs." British intelligence is as corrupt as the Americans' and the Russians.' Despite patriotic father Frank's (Michael Caine) advice to not rock the boat and either continue this necessary and important work quietly; or at least exit gracefully; Bob plans to quit with a whistle-blowing bang, thereby being a "man in the white hat" who "always wins in the end," thus saving England, perhaps the world.To add insult to injury, Bob is also stucking his acquaintance Alan's wife, Cynthia, married with child, presumably Alan's. This stucking may be a factor in Alan's death: Cynthia had just so advised Alan, telling Bob that Alan took it "terrible." Was it carbon monoxide suicide or perhaps another GPSC murder? We'll never know, but it apparently has a big effect on paranoid Bob. It's also difficult to see what (beyond plot requirements) Cynthia sees in Bob (or for that matter what he sees in her): Alan was better-looking than Bob and an extroverted but faithful reveler to boot, though admittedly with unsavory political connections.The film succeeds brilliantly if intended to portray Bob an ideological idiot. Indeed, Bob gets his just deserts after just 45 grueling minutes, markedly improving the film's gene pool in the process, likely not the reaction intended. And that is the principal problem with this film. Induced by the script, Havers does well but his portrayal so poisons the water that it is difficult for subsequent sympathetic engagement. Even worse, the bad guys' performances and motivations are so strong (if Bob carries out his threat, he'll create a first magnitude British intelligence failure) that the film risks making them the true white hats despite their government-sanctioned murderous intentions! In this sense, the film has a refreshing ambiguity.Prolog being over, the story gets down to brass tacks. Bob's grieving father Frank tries to find out why Bob died and if he can do anything about it. He risks getting acquaintances bumped off just before they can spill the beans (a time-honored movie tradition). And when Frank confronts someone about Bob's (and others') deaths, the intelligence folks are so (literally) wired in that they know all about it and other "private" and politically sensitive conversations Frank and son had as they strolled through "safe" terrain. (Watch for the guy with the "suitcase" and ear phones, the nearby upper floor open window, the trailing taxi, the brief glimpse of a major player at the subway "accident".) But when Frank finally confronts someone much higher in the food chain, presumably under more intense scrutiny, said agents must be out to lunch, conveniently facilitating a plot twist.The performances of Caine, Barry Foster as Charlie Gregg, Kenneth Colley as Pickett and the several intelligence agents (including James Fox and Gordon Jackson, with character names like "Lord" and "Bruce" never occurring in conversation) are actually quite good, as is John Gielgud (as always) who's lesser supporting role as Sir Adrian Chapple has pretty limited screen time. The dual-sided DVD presents both a widescreen (16x9) and a pan scan version. The widescreen picture and sound are generally satisfying. The pan scan version is surprisingly crisp and pleasing."
Who is the enemy ?
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 04/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Based on a novel by John Hale, this 1987 film is a cold war spy story with more twists and angles than can be absorbed in a single viewing.
The boundaries between right and wrong are blurred, in this complex plot where co-workers in the secret service are asked to spy on each other, truth-seekers are murdered, and the guilty are kept protected in their luxurious nests.With an excellent cast that includes James Fox, Nigel Havers, John Gielgud, Felicity Dean, and many top-notch character actors, it's a fast paced hour and 40 of my favorite parts is how they manage to get information out of the imprisoned double agent, making him believe that he has escaped.
Also adding a lot to the film is the lovely soundtrack by John Scott.Michael Caine is powerful as the former spy and bereaved father, who investigates his son's death. Part vulnerable, part tough guy, it's a subtle, touching, and brilliant performance, and its believability makes this intricate thriller a 5 star film."
A Well-Acted and Slightly Sad Spy Story
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 10/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Frank Jones (Michael Caine) has a son (Nigel Havers) who works in a top secret British intelligence agency. Frank has had experience in that line, but now has retired to a quiet and safe life. His son tells him that strange things are happening, and he's planning on leaving and marrying an older woman he's fallen in love with. He says a Soviet mole was found, that security is all over the place encouraging people to rat on each other. The higher ups seem convinced that if they don't do something, their American friends in the CIA will stop working with them.

Frank isn't thrilled over the marriage plans, and he tells his son that it's unlikely anything off key can be happening in the agency. It's obvious that Jones loves his son deeply and wants his son to be happy in whatever his son chooses for himself. A few days later his son is dead, an apparent suicide. Jones cannot believe his son killed himself, and decides to use his old skills to find out what happened. The rest of the movie digs into an examination of the British establishment which is disturbing and ugly. There are strong echoes of the Antony Blunt case and the Cambridge spies. Frank Jones finds men who easily consider others expendable if their ideas of class and priviledge are endangered. He accuses one of being willing to see men die so long as he can continue to have tea with the Queen.

Caine does a wonderful job of underplaying. His love for his son, his reluctance to leave the safe shell he has made for himself, his strength in searching for answers, his ruthlessness when he gets close to the truth, are all played quietly...which makes things even more effective.

The movie's ending is, for me, not quite as satisfying as it could be, but it's likely that the good guy wins and the bad guys suffer.

Among the bad guys is James Fox, a first-rate actor who for some time has seemed to specialize in playing condescending aristos. It's hard to remember him as the blond, young "tennis, anyone?" chap in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The DVD transfer is okay."
Cold war based British espionage drama
Cory D. Slipman | Rockville Centre, N.Y. | 02/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Micheal Caine plays Frank Jones a decorated ex-British Navy veteran and now businessman. His beloved son Bob played by Nigel Havers is a Russian linguist working for the British Secret Service before the days of detente. He tells Caine that he suspects some strange things are happening in his agency, that he would like to expose.

The Secret Service suspicious of Havers has been bugging his conversations and ultimately liquidate him, covering up his death. Caine, unsatisfied with the official declaration of an accidental death, commences his own investigation.

He eventually is lead to John Gielgud playing high ranking politician Sir Adrian Chapple who acting as a Russian mole, has been feeding them sensitive bits of intelligence for years.

With a distinctly British flavor, "The Whistle Blower" is an above average vintage Cold War drama that uses at it's conclusion the incredible pagaentry of a monarchy sponsored parade filmed in the streets of London."