This John Le Carre adaptation strips the spy game of its romantic trappings and depicts its players, as one character says, ‘as men playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives.’ Director Martin Ritt uses stark, black-and-white cinematography and a documentary-like distance. Like many of its characters, the movie wears a poker face. The central spook here is British agent Alec Leamas, played by a particularly bedraggled Richard Burton. Resolutely wrapped in a dingy raincoat, Burton looks at once paranoid and weary, something like a cornered rat. Pulled out of Germany and given a desk job in the midst of the Cold War, Leamas is covertly instructed to play the part of the disgruntled company man (he’s especially good at the hard drinking that comes with the assignment). Dangled before the East Germans as a possible defector, his orders are to cross over as a double agent and operate as a saboteur in their midst. It’s a complicated scheme, and the movie remains appropriately enigmatic throughout. Keeping track of all the names and faces that fly past nearly requires a notebook. Such close attention pays off, however, when the climax peels all the layers away and they’re revealed to be thicker – and more devious – than Leamas thought. In Le Carre’s world, you’re always a pawn, even when you think you’ve designed the playing board.