Review by Camden Ferrell
Errol Morris is an Oscar-winning filmmaker, and his solidified himself as a significant American storyteller. With films like The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War, he has proven that he can craft a compelling narrative. His newest movie is about someone who also has experience with telling stories. The Pigeon Tunnel tells the story of John le Carré and while it’s very cinematic in nature and visually appealing, it may not be the most accessible to those only casually familiar with his work.
John le Carré is a pen name associated with novels like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He was born David Cornwell and has lived a life as adventurous as one of his novels. Morris tells the story of his life and unique experiences in all corners of the world, and the audience gets to experience this life, intimately told to us from the man himself. It’s an accomplished and impressive life for just one man, and this is a story that many people may not know much about and is as interesting as it sounds.
Despite it being a fascinating subject, the movie does feel a bit too rushed for its own good. Clocking in around ninety minutes, it feels like he has done so much in his life that it couldn’t possibly be covered in this brief runtime. Even though it does tell a cohesive life story, there are moments that feel rushed or omitted for the sake of time that make the story feel like it has the occasional missing piece. I think this is mostly done at the expense of people like me who knew next to nothing about le Carré coming into this film.
le Carré does prove to be an entertaining subject. Even at his advanced age, he told his life story with lots of energy and eloquence. Even if some parts feel sluggish for other reasons, he still brings a lot of life into this film. It’s a blessing that he was able to film these interviews before his passing in 2020 because I can’t say the movie would work quite as well without his insight and narration.
One of the aspects I appreciated most about this movie was its cinematic nature. Morris helps tell his story using reenactments of scenes from le Carré’s life, and these are visually strong and give a distinct character to the film. There are some moments where the movie doesn’t work on a narrative level, but the cinematography ensures it still works on a superficial level if nothing else. However, despite all that work’s in this movie’s favor, it ultimately feels a little too inaccessible to those who are not already fans of the film’s subject. It tells a competent story, but it doesn’t do too much beyond that.
The Pigeon Tunnel finds le Carré divulging an intimate account of his life prior to his death, and it’s competently made if nothing else. There are some great things happening with his narration, the cinematography, and Morris’ signature storytelling, but something just feels missing at times from the movie. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s not as innately captivating as I hoped it would be.
The Pigeon Tunnel is streaming on Apple TV+ October 20.