Martin Ritt's adaptation of the John Le Carre bestseller THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD stars Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, a burnt-out spy soon to retire from British Intelligence. For his final assignment, Alec must pose as a drunk who wants to defect to East Germany, where the chief of operations for the Communists, Hans-Dieter Mundt (Peter van Eyck), has captured several British spies. His acting works: Communists throw Alec into jail for public drunkenness and for having an affair with a young member of the local Communist party, Nan (Claire Bloom). In jail, he is approached by Mundt's agents and asked to defect. They take Alec to East Berlin where he is grilled by Mundt's top man, Fiedler (Oskar Werner), who believes that Mundt is actually a double agent. Shot in stark black and white in documentary style, Ritt's film is a realistic portrait of the grim life of a spy, revealing all of the profession's complexities in a style that is equally as thrilling as an elaborate action scene in a James Bond movie. At the heart of the film is Burton's bitter and world-weary Alec, and his performance here ranks among the best of his career.
British agent Alec Leamas refuses to come in from the cold war during the 1960s, choosing to face another mission, which may prove to be his final one. -- Description provided by TMDb