Michael Caine plays Harry Palmer, a British Army sergeant in the Ministry of Defence charged with aiding the recovery of an abducted scientist during which he uncovers a larger conspiracy.
An espionage thriller with no car chases, gadgets or set pieces. The action unfolds not in exotic locales, but in supermarkets, and the cramped, worn, dim buildings that comprise London’s government offices and Palmer’s modest home.
And yet it rivets.
Caine shines as Palmer. He’s described as an insubordinate petty criminal who enlisted to avoid jail time. Caine plays him as unflappable, with a charming veneer, but a guarded center. The kind of guy everyone knows, but no one gets to know. A high-functioning mild sociopath. A perfect spy.
I loved watching Palmer handle office bureaucracy and criminal masterminds with the same icy detachment. If Bond is escapist fantasy, Palmer is the workingman’s wish fulfillment.