Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
It’s good. Not as good as the first 2 but still good.
The best way I can describe this movie is a little esoteric. If you’ve ever played FFXIII, it’s sort of like when your party lands on Gran Pulse. The first 2/3 was decent but it all goes to shit when you go from the incredibly linear gameplay to a random-as-fuck open world environment. Harry Palmer was great in a city but you move him into the backwoods countryside of any country and it just doesn’t hold together. Saltzman wanted a new Bond so badly that he derailed the series on the 3rd movie.
The Brain idea makes a later appearance in Eagle Eye but was just too far ahead of its time here. The potential and likelihood of corruption of the system was very high and yet Leo still implicitly follows the instructions. Weird. And how ridiculously nice is Col. Stok? Especially in comparison to the batshit crazy Midwinter. Speaking of, why does Harry even consider trying to talk sense into him?
And how completely ineffectual is Harry Palmer in this movie? He bumbles into Finland and gives the package to someone who is not his contact and does not give him the code phrase. He then heads into flirtsville with his old “buddy’s” mistress. He bumbles along into a faux resistance fight and would be dead in the snow if not for a chance recovery of a soldier from his concussion. The Russians inexplicably love this English spy and are constantly warning him, giving him intel and 2nd chances and outright helping him along. And for what? So he can meet the bat-shit crazy Midwinter who funds his own Charlie Wilson’s war off of oil money and nutso American right-wing conservative religious fascism. The MW logo and proceedings are pretty clearly reminiscent of a WWII military leader but it’s such a specific weirdness that you can’t help but think Len Deighton had someone specific in mind. Unfortunately, the only super conservative rich Texans I can think of who start wars in other countries in the name of Providence are the Bush boys and looking into some chronologies, it looks like George H. W. Bush (senior) is the man, unless someone can think of someone more fitting the profile.
Palmer was basically useless in the movie except to provide a point of view as narrator/observer.
It’s a spy movie and it’s decent but not really that great.
If your time is limited, watch a different spy movie. If you’ve nothing better to do, well, might as well watch it and get scared of American fundamentalists…
Note for future Michael Caine movies: remember that Official Secrets Act they so dramatically have him sign and all his Harry Palmer adventures if you watch the 1986 movie The Whistle Blower.