Starring: Michael Caine, Oskar Homolka, Eva Renzi
Director: Guy Hamilton
Running Time: 102 mins
Funeral In Berlin is a British film and the sequel to The Ipcress File. After being informed of a Soviet in East Berlin who wishes to defect, Harry Palmer travels to the city at the centre of Cold War tensions, only to find out that there are far more complexities than simply moving him across the border.
Although another interesting spy thriller, Funeral In Berlin doesn’t match up to the brilliance of its predecessor. Lacking the same style, high drama and pace, the film never really gets you fully wrapped up in its story, meaning that it’s just not as exciting as it ought to be. Michael Caine impresses in the lead role again, but the overall impression I got from this film was that it’s a step-down from Ipcress.
Let’s start on the positive side, with Michael Caine’s performance. If ever you wanted such a charismatic and intelligent man to play the reluctant maverick agent Harry Palmer, then Caine’s the perfect fit. Once again, he’s a magnetic screen presence throughout, always giving the film a lighter side with his clever humour, as well as proving stylish enough to keep the film all the more engaging.
Even The Ipcress File wouldn’t have been as good as it was without Michael Caine’s performance, and the fact that he manages to play an agent who’s not particularly thrilled by his work proves yet another refreshing change from the typical James Bond movies of the era.
Caine is by far the best part of the film, but the story isn’t bad either. Again, it’s nowhere near up to the thrilling standards of The Ipcress File, but it does provide some intrigue from time to time. Although a little messy at times, the mystery builds well throughout, and with a couple of unexpected twists and turns, there are some good moments of excitement as we move towards an entertaining conclusion.
The problem is that the story’s structure isn’t particularly solid. Unlike Ipcress, Funeral In Berlin sees Harry Palmer go abroad, but the film often undoes that part of the story with frequent recallings to London. It does show Palmer’s irritation with his superiors, but it really does interrupt the flow of the mystery in Berlin, and it’s something the film could have done without.
Finally, my biggest disappointment with this film is that the visual style that made The Ipcress File so dynamic and exciting isn’t there any more. Mostly, I’m talking about the dutch angle and stark bright/dark lighting, which was used so much in Ipcress. I absolutely loved that style, but the fact that we don’t see it again in Funeral In Berlin was evocative of my general feelings about the movie. The substance for a good spy movie is there, but the pieces that made the first so exciting just aren’t, making the film an overall disappointment, which is why I’m giving Funeral In Berlin a 7.1.