Who Was the Brain Behind This?
Having retired from the British Secret Service, Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) has set himself up as a private detective although the first job he gets is to deliver a mysterious package from a locker to Helsinki. It turns out the person he is delivering the package to is old friend Leo Newbigen (Karl Malden) but he soon becomes aware that things are not as they seem as the package contains eggs filled with deadly viruses and there is a Texan billionaire pulling the strings with plans to bring down communism.
Michael Caine playing as a bit of a laid back, almost jack the lad style character who is quick with a witty response is a joy to watch. But for some reason it feels wrong in "Billion Dollar Brain" because this third movie in the Harry Palmer series of spy movies is different to the previous two and the difference starts with Caine playing Palmer with this witty tone. It leaves me conflicted because as I said Michael Caine delivering this sort of humour is great but it isn't what you are expecting.
But that is not the only thing which feels different in "Billion Dollar Brain" as we have a storyline which feels like it is trying to be a Bond knock off with larger than life characters, futuristic sets and a plot which to be frank is far too far fetched. Quite simply this feels like Ken Russell took the director's chair and decided to stamp his vision for who Harry Palmer should be on this movie without a care as to whether it fitted with what had been established in the previous two movies. And as such this becomes a movie which if you were to watch first before watching any of the earlier Harry Palmer movie might be entertaining but would then might make watching those earlier movies a strain due to the change in tone and style.
Yet whilst there are times the tone in "Billion Dollar Brain" is distinctly playful to the point of being tongue in cheek it also has some darker, more dramatic scenes. The two sides of the movie jar, clashing together to the point that you begin to wonder whether the movie was made by two different directors in some sort of mad movie science experiment.
What this all boils down to is that "Billion Dollar Brain" didn't do it for me as despite enjoying Michael Caine in a playful mood the whole style of this movie just didn't work in a consistent with the humour and the drama jarring too often.