Sidney Lumet's The Deadly Affair comes out of the same tradition (and from the same source-author) as Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold -- and it manages to be just as grim and absorbing, even amid the beautiful color cinematography of Freddy Young, who still manages to make London look drab and threatening. James Mason gives a beautifully understated performance as an intelligence agent who finds himself caught amid a bureaucratic maze that may be shielding an intelligence disaster -- one that may be a lot closer to home on two different fronts than he would like to admit. He gets great support from a cast that is more than first rate from top to bottom. The plot may be a little more complicated than devotees of 1960's espionage films are accustomed to seeing, but that's the way with John LeCarre's stories -- this one is a little simpler than The Spy Who Came In From The Cold but also very viscerally compelling, and overall this is about as good an espionage/mystery thriller as came out of anywhere in the decade in which it was made, and even manages to work in some much-needed and welcomed moments of sardonic humor, amid its seriousness -- a difference that might make it preferable to much of its competition of the era, including Ritt's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
by Bruce Eder review