Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, shrewd and opportunistic Russian-born British agent
Hamburg, Germany, Spring 1905
Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “The Visiting Fireman” (Episode 3)
Air Date: September 14, 1983
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller
In honor of Sam Neill’s 75th birthday this week, I want to revisit one of my favorite roles for the New Zealand actor. Almost a decade before his starring role in the
groundbreaking groundshaking blockbuster Jurassic Park, Neill had been one of the contenders suggested to replace Roger Moore as James Bond, though the actor himself had been reluctant to take what he’s since called a “mortifying” audition and was likely grateful when the role went to Timothy Dalton instead. Neill may have been considered after his excellent performance earlier in the ’80s as Sidney Reilly, a real-life spy whose early 20th century exploits had been cited by Ian Fleming as one of his inspirations for the literary 007. Continue reading
In recognition of POW/MIA Day, observed on the third Friday of September, let’s delve into one of the first major movies to shine a light on the POW experience.
William Holden as J.J. Sefton, USAAF Staff Sergeant and prisoner of war
“Somewhere on the Danube”, December 1944
Film: Stalag 17
Release Date: May 29, 1953
Director: Billy Wilder
Wardrobe Credit: J. Allen Slone
I don’t know about you, but it always makes me sore when I see those war pictures… all about flying leathernecks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerrillas in the Philippines. What gets me is there never was a movie about POWs… about prisoners of war.
… and so Clarence Harvey Cook (Gil Stratton) begins his narration, setting the scene for the week leading up to Christmas 1944 when he and his fellow downed colleagues discovered a potential informant—er, a “dirty stinkin’ stoolie”—in their barracks.
After two airmen are shot trying to escape, suspicion eventually falls on J.J. Sefton, the cigarette-dealing but cigar-chomping staff sergeant whose cynicism has already rendered him unpopular with most of the Americans aside from Cookie, who serves as Sefton’s unofficial batman and describes him as “one of the most unforgettable ch-characters you’ve ever met.” Continue reading
Gustaf Gründgens as “The Safecracker”, criminal community leader
Berlin, Fall 1930
(German title: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder)
Release Date: May 11, 1931
Director: Fritz Lang
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking masterpiece M was released 90 years ago. Self-described by the director as his magnum opus, M drew on the wave of sadistic child-murderers that had terrorized Germany through the previous decade—monsters like Carl Großmann, Fritz Haarmann, and Peter Kürten—to create a fictionalized cautionary tale centered around the crimes of Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), a creepy little killer who signals his presence by whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, one of the first leitmotifs on screen as Lang experimented with the capabilities of sound in his first non-silent film.
As the increased police attention has disrupted Berlin’s underworld, the ruthless master criminal known only as “Der Schränker” (The Safecracker) calls together the city’s crime lords to form a united front against the killer. Continue reading
Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker, taciturn Mossad agent, and
Amir Khoury as Salim Al-Khadar, aka “Michel”, Palestinian revolutionary leader
Athens to Munich, Spring 1979
Series: The Little Drummer Girl (Episodes 1-3)
Air Date: October 28, 2018 to November 11, 2018
Director: Park Chan-wook
Costume Design: Sheena Napier & Steven Noble
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
John le Carré was one of the most prolific espionage authors, penning more than two dozen novels including The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Tailor of Panama, many of which were successfully adapted as movies or limited series that made the most of le Carré’s richly drawn worlds of deception.
Le Carré died in December 2020 at the age of 89, following in death within the month by his half-sister Charlotte Cornwall. Charlotte reportedly inspired the titular character at the center of his novel The Little Drummer Girl about a free-spirited, idealistic, and impressionable actress named Charmian “Charlie” Ross who gets pulled into the world of espionage. Continue reading
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne/David Webb, amnesiac ex-CIA assassin
Athens, Berlin, London, and Las Vegas, Fall 2015
Film: Jason Bourne
Release Date: July 11, 2016
Director: Paul Greengrass
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy 50th birthday, Matt Damon! Nearly 15 years after the actor first kicked cinematic ass as the amnesiac assassin, Damon again stepped into Jason Bourne’s globe-trotting boots for one more installment of the spy franchise extolled for its relative realism, intriguing narrative, and expertly choreographed fight scenes.
I remember… I remember everything.
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, British government agent
London to Hamburg, April 1997
Film: Tomorrow Never Dies
Release Date: December 6, 1997
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Costume Designer: Lindy Hemming
Who else but the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan would be best to feature on the 00-7th o’ March?
Following a thrilling pre-credits sequence, James Bond gets in some much needed R&R in the arms of a beautiful Danish language tutor when duty calls… in the form of Miss Moneypenny. Bond begrudgingly departs his cunning linguistics session (yes, I know) when MI6 summons him for an urgent briefing and sends him off to a springtime mission in Germany.
The scene is quintessential Bond: an elegant suit, a snazzy new car, a useful gadget… and enough product placement to guarantee the future of the series. Continue reading
Today is Brad Pitt’s birthday, and I’m delighted to commemorate the actor’s special day with a submitted post from BAMF Style contributor “W.T. Hatch”. Enjoy!
Brad Pitt as Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, battle-hardened 2nd Armored Division tank commander, U.S. Army
Forward edge of the battlefield, Germany, April 1945
Release Date: October 17, 2014
Director: David Ayer
Costume Design: Maja Meschede & Anna B. Sheppard
Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.
Set in the final weeks of World War II, Fury is a brutally honest movie depicting the true face of war. Ground combat is dirty, cold, dangerous. War exacts a terrible cost from those who survive to return home. David Ayer’s magnum opus, Fury, depicts World War II as it happened without glorifying the unforgiving violence, death, and carnage of battle. Brad Pitt portrays Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, a hardened veteran and commander of an M4 Sherman tank nicknamed “Fury”. Very little of Wardaddy’s background is directly revealed in the film although a number of clues point to his prior combat experience in World War I and perhaps service during in interwar years. As such, Collier is an “old school” tanker with a preference for uniforms first introduced before the start of WWII. Continue reading
Paul Newman as Michael Armstrong, American physicist and amateur spy
East Berlin, September 1965
Film: Torn Curtain
Release Date: July 14, 1966
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Supervisor: Grady Hunt
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Alfred Hitchcock’s 50th film, Torn Curtain, marked his one and only collaboration with Paul Newman. Production on the Cold War spy thriller was plagued by the veteran director clashing with his leads, unused to method actor Paul Newman’s constant questioning of his character’s motivation. “Your motivation is your salary,” Hitch reportedly replied.
The famously easygoing Newman was a little more enthusiastic, later recalling, “I think Hitch and I could have really hit it off, but the script kept getting in the way.”
Indeed, the serious political thriller was a departure from Hitchcock’s usual scripts, developed in response to the growing popularity of the James Bond franchise through the ’60s. Continue reading
Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, smooth CIA operative
Berlin and Rome, Spring 1963
Film: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Release Date: August 2, 2015
Director: Guy Ritchie
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of the more stylish films released in recent years, transporting audiences back to the oft-romanticized height of Cold War spying in mid-’60s Europe. The movie reboot serves as a prequel for the popular TV show, which starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as American spy Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, respectively.
Henry Cavill’s interpretation of Solo retains much of the easygoing efficiency and sophistication originated by Vaughn in the role, and I left the theater wishing I was heading directly to the shop of Timothy Everest, who tailored Cavill’s distinctive and debonair suits for the film.
For my inaugural Solo post, in response to requests from readers Noel and Andrew, I am choosing to focus on a flashy suit that gets plenty of screen time. Continue reading
Robert Redford as Nathan Muir, experienced CIA case officer
Berlin, Winter 1977
Film: Spy Game
Release Date: November 21, 2001
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Designer: Louise Frogley
Redford’s Costumer: David Page
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
When Nathan Muir is being questioned by the CIA about his history with Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt), one particular incident that receives attention is Operation Rodeo, best remembered by Muir as “the Cathcart affair” for the involvement of embassy mole Anne Cathcart (Charlotte Rampling).
Vivaldi’s “Spring” concerto from The Four Seasons, performed by Nigel Kennedy and the English Chamber Orchestra, cuts in as the film flashes back again to Berlin in 1977. Muir is in black tie with a glass of single malt in his hand, accompanying his “cousin” (Andrea Osvárt) to a party where the two encounter the enigmatic Ms. Cathcart. Continue reading