Stop Start to Beijing
A lot has changed in the three decades that Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) has worked for the British secret service so much so that after such a long service he finds himself surplus to requirements and is retired from the service. Fortunately whilst the British may no longer need an old spy like Harry there are others who will pay royally for his skills and he soon finds himself on the way to Russia where he is met by Nikolai (Jason Connery) and Natasha (Mia Sara) who are there to make sure he reaches his destination which is with Alex (Michael Gambon). Alex wants Harry to track down and recover a deadly binary biological weapon called Alorex which the old spy soon learns is on a train to Beijing. But as Harry sets about his business he soon realises nothing is as it seems especially when it comes to the people he is working with.
Sometimes I get handed a box of old movies, videos which people have recorded off of TV many years earlier or were bought and have lost their cases, basically movies that some people no longer have use for but know that as a movie fan I am not fussy as to what I watch. It is how I came to watch "Bullet to Beijing" as it was an old video and other than knowing it was a Michael Caine movie from the 90s I knew little else. In fact it wasn't until I started to watch it that I realised "Bullet to Beijing" was the first of two Harry Palmer movies Michael Caine made during the 90s roughly 30 years after he first appeared as the British spy.
Now I have always been more of a Bond man than a Palmer man but you can't ignore a Michael Caine movie although I kind of wish I could forget watching "Bullet to Beijing" because it isn't a good movie. From the plot which feels more like a watered down Bond movie to the acting it is all kind of second class with Michael Caine looking uncomfortable playing Harry Palmer again. In fact in Caine's memoirs he found making this and the consecutively shot Harry Palmer movie such a horrible experience that he was going to retire as an actor and you can see his dissatisfaction with the production in his performance. It isn't just Michael Caine as all the acting feels stilted and this is even more the case when the editing adds to that sense that the movie lacks rhythm and rather than being a movie which those involved with were excited to be part of was more of just a job.
The thing is that if they had made "Bullet to Beijing" 10 years earlier it might have worked as back in the 80s there was Roger Moore as Bond and to be frank Michael Caine's Palmer in this reminds me more of Moore's Bond. But come the mid 90s not only was their Pierce Brosnan giving us a more sexy Bond but there was also Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in "Mission: Impossible" and sadly Michael Caine as Harry Palmer and "Bullet to Beijing" as a whole just doesn't compete with them feeling the relic that it sadly is.
What this all boils down to is that "Bullet to Beijing" was and probably still is entertaining for those who were fans of Michael Caine as Harry Palmer but for anyone else it comes up short of the mark and to be frank if it wasn't for Michael Caine and the respect you give him as an actor this would be borderline terrible.