The master of spy stories has died at the age of 89 after leaving a huge legacy.
John le Carré, the master of spy novels, died on December 13 at the age of 89 in a hospital in Cornwall. If there is someone who handled the world of espionage perfectly, it was the British, who has left for posterity a legacy full of addictive plots, corruption in high places and a lot of entertainment. A must for fans of international suspense and action, in the same way that Stephen King is the benchmark for horror fans to follow.
His books have reviewed the fall of the Soviet Union, he has delved into arms trafficking and investigated the corruption that exists among the pharmaceutical giants. Stories with the perfect ingredients to keep hooking the public through movies and series. Over the years, the industry has kept an eye on him, as evidenced by the many adaptations of his works. Here we review the best adaptations of John le Carré.
The Topo (2011)
In The Mole, Gary Oldman plays George Smiley – an old acquaintance of Le Carré fans – a British spy forced to retire after a mission fails and triggers a change in the top brass of the British service. He is about to resign himself when he is given a new task: to find the “mole” infiltrated in the higher spheres. The novel takes shape under the baton of Tomas Alfredson (Let me in) and it does so brilliantly. A film with a slow pace that does not lower the tone of tension at any time. It also features the luxurious performance of Oldman, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Leading Actor.
The Infiltrator (2016)
The infiltrator could not be missing from this list. In the year of its premiere, 2016, it appeared in all the compilations of the best of the year, toured the main awards galas and garnered a good number of followers. The fiction centers on a former British soldier who one night meets a woman named Sophie. She shows him documents that incriminate Richard Onslow Roper in an arms trafficking ring and asks that he hand him over to the authorities. Logically, this is just the beginning of a much more complex and convoluted plot that never ceases to amaze the viewer. A six-episode miniseries with a starring duo of Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. Almost nothing.
The Drum Girl (2018)
The series released in 2018 is not the only adaptation of The Girl on the Drum, but it is the most relevant. On this occasion, Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Shannon and Florence Pugh lead the cast of this BBC fiction, an expert channel, by the way, in bringing Le Carré novels to life. It follows the story of a young woman who is in a relationship with an Israeli intelligence agent. Her true aspiration is to be an actress, but her life as a couple forces her to immerse herself in the spy game. Thus he ends up chasing down a dangerous Palestinian terrorist guilty of several attacks.
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Fernando Meirelles dared with Le Carré in 2005, just a few years after having achieved international significance with Ciudad de Dios. In The Constant Gardener he directs Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz in one of the most celebrated adaptations. Justin Quayle is a British diplomat investigating the death of his wife with a man in northern Kenya. This tragic event will uncover the terrible case of a pharmaceutical company that uses African people as guinea pigs in an experiment to treat tuberculosis. This hell portrayed by Meirelles is one of the obligatory viewings in the suspense writer’s career.
The Spy Who Came from the Cold (1965)
We now travel to the 1960s. In 1963, John le Carré published The Spy Who Came from the Cold, a novel straddling England and Germany that delves into the espionage of the Cold War. The protagonist is Alec Leamas, a spy who carries out an operation against the head of East Germany’s counterintelligence. With a great reception among the critics and after becoming a best-seller, it soon caught the attention of Hollywood, which led it to the cinema in 1965 by the hand of Martin Ritt. It seems that she was lucky and success accompanied her on her way to the big screen, as she received very positive reviews and received several BAFTAs, including Best Picture.
The Mirror of Spies (1970)
And the mirror of spies could not be missing. Le Carré wrote this novel in 1965 in response to The spy that emerged from the cold. Many readers saw his earlier work as a tribute to British spy services, just the opposite of what he wanted to represent. For that reason, The mirror of spies explores the less glamorous side of espionage through an incompetent intelligence agency known as The Department. Frank Pierson – scriptwriter of Dog Day Afternoon and producer of Mad Men, among many other works – was commissioned to adapt it in 1970 in what was his film debut.
The Most Wanted Man (2014)
Leaving behind the decades of the 60s and 70s, John le Carré also dealt with some of the events that have marked the contemporary world. In The Most Wanted Man, he delves into the post 9/11 era and the consequences of the terrible attack on the Twin Towers. In this context we meet Isaa Karpov, a Chechen Muslim who ends up in Hamburg after being illegally tortured. He gets there without papers and with a huge amount of money on him. His presence arouses the interest of German spies, who will begin to track him down. It is the last Philip Seymour Hoffman film and we can say that he finished his career in style. The actor shines as Günther, the German counterterrorism agent in charge of the spy team.
Smiley’s People (1982)
Bringing the spy master to television is not a modern day thing. The BBC has been working with his stories since 1979, always with a great reception. In 1981 he released Smiley’s People, a six-episode miniseries directed by Simon Langton (Pride and Prejudice) starring Alec Guinness (Star Wars). Here we focus on George Smiley, the recurring protagonist of the Le Carré stories. He is about to retire when one of his old assets is killed. This event uncovers a clandestine operation run by Karla, George Smiley’s nemesis, for his own benefit.
The Tailor of Panama (2001)
A British tailor living in Panama is going through several financial problems when he is recruited by the British secret service thanks to his good contacts. The information that begins to pass to the spy Andy Osnard causes a stir in the United States government, who threaten the invasion of the country. This is the premise of El sastre de Panamá, a 1996 novel that was adapted in 2001 by John Boorman (Point Blank). A careful story and, of course, full of intrigue that reflects on the contemporary world.
A traitor like ours (2016)
One of the last adaptations of the author is A traitor like ours. In order to The New York Times, is one of Le Carré’s most intriguing novels in years and compares it to Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense. What can we expect, then, by pairing the master of suspense with the father of spy novels? Although the result in the novel is a success, its adaptation to the big screen falls short. However, we cannot fail to recommend the Susanna White tape. It is a simple story, but with a frenetic pace that results in an hour and 48 minutes of pure entertainment.