[Courtesy of Apple TV+]

Movie Review: The Pigeon Tunnel

07:00 November 07, 2023
By: Fritz Esker

The Pigeon Tunnel

John Le Carre was one of the world's most famous spy novelists in a career that spanned from the early 1960s, to his death in December 2020, at the age of 89. One of the things that made Le Carre a fascinating figure was he was a spy novelist who had actually worked as a spy in MI5 and MI6 (Le Carre was a pseudonym because he was still a spy when he started writing). Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line) interviewed Le Carre extensively for his intriguing new documentary The Pigeon Tunnel, based on Le Carre's memoirs.

Betrayal is a major theme in Le Carre's work. He grew up the son of a conman who got people to trust him before stealing their money. Then he became a spy, which meant earning people's trust while betraying them. Le Carre describes being a spy as a "self-imposed schizophrenia" as a person has to present a front to the world while being something else. He also posits that a famous spy such as Kim Philby, who betrayed Great Britain to the USSR for decades before fleeing to Moscow, was far more addicted to deception and what he saw as a game than he was committed to the communist cause.

Morris' visual sense keeps the film from being just a talking head documentary, and Le Carre has a wry sense of humor. The film (and book) both end with a funny story of what was actually inside a MI6 safe that supposedly contained explosive secrets.

It's unclear if there's enough in here to attract people who aren't interested either in Le Carre's work or spy craft in general, but if you have any interest in either, The Pigeon Tunnel is well worth checking out.

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