Plot – A French Intelligence Agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring – Topaz.
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Released – 1969
There’s a reason why Alfred Hitchcock’s 1969 Cold War opus, Topaz, isn’t spoken about as much as his earlier films, quite simply it’s just not as good. Sure, it has a few moments of greatness and sparks of Hitchcock’s genius, the same can be said for all his films. Here you have a film where there just isn’t enough to help you move past the limitations with the plot and the long passages where nothing much in the way of excitement happens.
Many of the best spy films have complex storylines, but Topaz takes this to another level with multiple supporting characters and groups that show up for a short period before disappearing from the story altogether. Making it overly difficult to get emotionally involved with any of the character and less so the proceedings.
All of which results in a movie that you soon lose interest in, which is disappointing given how well it started off with a wonderful tension-filled sequence showing the defection to the US by a top Russian official. But then those characters disappear to be eventually replaced by Parisian spy Andre Devereaux (Stafford).
This leads me onto Stafford, who despite his best effort, fails to reach the same heights as previous Hitchcock leading men; lacking charm and charisma exuded by Grant or Stewart, with the film suffering as a result.
This isn’t to say he doesn’t help to produce some great moments, especially once the action had shifted to Cuba, while the sequence where a man attempts to photograph some secret documents is pure Hitchcock suspense building. Sadly, by the time the film finally made it to France and started ramping up to its long-winded climax, I’m afraid I’d long lost interest.
At heart, Topaz wants to be James Bond yet the problems with the script stop the heart and charm the Bond movies boasted from developing, not helped by Hitchcock’s overly critical approach to filmmaking that prevented you from connecting with any of the characters or caring about the events.
Something that at over two hours, the movie had plenty of time to nurture and develop. In the end, Topaz isn’t one of Hitchcock’s better films, in fact, it’s close to his worst, yet it’s interesting to see how his skill and desire had changed since his early days in British cinema and how commercial he became towards the end of his career.