Casablanca: easy to enter, but much harder to leave, especially if you're wanted by the Nazis. Such a man is Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whose only hope is Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a cynical American who sticks his neck out for no one - especially Victor's wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the ex-lover who broke his heart. Ilsa offers herself in exchange for Laszlo's transport out of the country and bitter Rick must decide what counts more - personal happiness or countless lives hanging in the balance. This classic film still stands up to the test of time.
John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy) directed this gripping, entertaining 1977 thriller that centers on graduate student Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman plays a sullen and cowardly loner haunted by the suicide of his father, a suspected communist. He is drawn into a murky web of international intrigue when his brother, CIA agent Doc Levy, played by Roy Scheider (Jaws, The French Connection), is murdered by a former Nazi (Laurence Olivier) who has come to the United States to reclaim a valuable stash of diamonds. Babe (Hoffman) must confront his fears of the past as he runs for his life and tries to avenge his brother's death at the same time. Featuring a classic torture sequence and a terrific cast that includes William Devane and Marthe Keller, this film written by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men) stands as a great entertainment and as one of the seminal films of the 1970s.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy stars Alec Guinness as George Smiley, John le Carré's familiar, aging British Intelligence agent, called out of retirement to discover the identity of the high-ranking Russian mole who has burrowed deep into "the Circus"--codename for the British secret service. This slow-burning, complicated, and ultimately rewarding BBC adaptation, dramatized by Arthur Hopcroft and directed by John Irvin, perfectly captures Le Carré's own insight into the shady underworld of spies and the political climate during the cold war.
Freely adapted from Robert Ludlum's 1980 bestseller, The Bourne Identity starts fast and never slows down. The twisting plot revs up in Zurich, where amnesiac CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), with no memory of his name, profession, or recent activities, recruits a penniless German traveler (Run Lola Run's Franka Potente) to assist in solving the puzzle of his missing identity. While his CIA superior (Chris Cooper) dispatches assassins to kill Bourne and thus cover up his failed mission, Bourne exercises his lethal training to leave a trail of bodies from Switzerland to Paris. Picking up where The Bourne Identity left off, the action begins when CIA assassin and partial amnesiac Jason Bourne (a role reprised with efficient intensity by Matt Damon) is framed for a murder in Berlin, setting off a chain reaction of pursuits involving CIA handlers (led by Joan Allen and the duplicitous Brian Cox, with Julia Stiles returning from the previous film) and a shadowy Russian oil magnate.
The often breathtaking, final installment The Bourne Supremacy finds the titular assassin with no memory closing in on his past, finally answering his own questions about his real identity and how he came to be a seemingly unstoppable killing machine. Now looking for payback, Bourne goes in search for the renegade chief of CIA operations in Europe and North Africa, partnering for a time with a mysterious woman from his past (Julia Stiles) and constantly--constantly--on the run from assassins, intelligence foot soldiers, and cops.
What if your government forced you to be a spy? That's the situation in which Bridget Fonda finds herself in Point of No Return, the American remake of the better-known La Femme Nikita, Luc Besson's thriller about a junkie transformed into a deadly assassin and spy. La Femme has pleasures all its own, including Harvey Keitel as an expressionless "cleaner," but it's Fonda who perfectly sells the desperation of a spook trying to escape her fate.
Syriana is to the oil industry as Traffic was to the drug trade (no surprise, since writer/director Stephen Gaghan wrote the screenplay to Traffic) A major merger between two of the world’s largest oil companies reveals ethical dilemmas for the lawyer charged with making the deal (Jeffrey Wright), and major global implications beyond the obvious; a CIA operative (George Clooney) discovers the truth about his work, and the people he works for; a young oil broker (Matt Damon) encounters personal tragedy, then partners with an idealistic Gulf prince (Alexander Siddig) attempting to build a new economy for his people, only to find he’s opposed by powers far beyond his control.
The Good Shepherd
"When we talk about 'CIA,' we never use the word 'the' in front of it ... Do you put the word 'the' in front of 'God'?" In Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd, the birth of the CIA is witnessed from the point of view of a company spook (Matt Damon) whose empty marriage and lack of a father figure haunt him into accepting the Central Intelligence Agency as his lord and master. Paced to the slow burn of a bureaucrat's thankless secret work, The Good Shepherd indicts the shortsightedness of American foreign policy and the hollow men who prop it up.
Based on Tom Clancy's bestseller, directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard) and starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, The Hunt for Red October sweats with high-tech anxiety and the tension of men who hold Doomsday in their hands. A new technologically-superior Soviet nuclear sub, the Red October, is heading for the U.S. coast under the command of Captain Marko Ramius (Connery). The American government thinks Ramius is planning to attack. A lone CIA analyst (Baldwin) has a different idea: he thinks Ramius is planning to defect, but he has only a few hours to find him and prove it - because the entire Russian naval and air commands are trying to find him, too. The hunt is on!
John le Carre's classic spy yarn gets a suitably brisk, unromanticized telling in this quintessential Cold War movie. A British agent (Richard Burton) sets up an elaborate cover story for being lured into defecting to the Communists, but he hardly needs to manufacture his disgust and cynicism over spying. The grim business of point-counterpoint espionage has rarely been depicted with less glamour; Burton's great climactic speech on the subject is the definitive take on sinking to the level of the enemy. Claire Bloom is an offbeat love interest, and a bearded Oskar Werner is an East German investigator on Burton's case (the pecking order in the Communist spy hierarchy is a source of black humor). Director Martin Ritt extends his unvarnished approach to the movie's stripped-down look, which means that Richard Burton is constantly in a harsh, unflattering light. He looks terrible, but it's in the service of a fine performance.
With its high-intensity plot about an attempt to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle, the bestselling novel by Frederick Forsyth was a prime candidate for screen adaptation. Director Fred Zinnemann brought his veteran skills to bear on what has become a timeless classic of screen suspense. Not to be confused with the later remake The Jackal starring Bruce Willis (which shamelessly embraced all the bombast that Zinnemann so wisely avoided), this 1973 thriller opts for lethal elegance and low-key tenacity in the form of the Jackal, the suave assassin played with consummate British coolness by Edward Fox. He's a killer of the highest order, a master of disguise and international elusiveness, and this riveting film follows his path to de Gaulle with an intense, straightforward documentary style. Perhaps one of the last great films from a bygone age of pure, down-to-basics suspense (and a kind of debonair European alternative to the American grittiness of The French Connection), The Day of the Jackal is a cat-and-mouse thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat until its brilliantly executed final scene, by which time Fox has achieved cinematic immortality as one of the screen's most memorable killers.