Jump to content

The Ipcress File (TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Ipcress File
GenreSpy thriller
Based onThe IPCRESS File
by Len Deighton
Written byJohn Hodge
Directed byJames Watkins
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes6
Executive producers
ProducerPaul Ritchie
Production companies
Original release
Release6 March (2022-03-06) –
10 April 2022 (2022-04-10)

The Ipcress File is a British cold war spy thriller television series loosely based on the 1962 novel The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton. Written by John Hodge and directed by James Watkins, it stars Joe Cole, Lucy Boynton and Tom Hollander. It was first broadcast at 9pm from Sunday 6 March to 10 April 2022 on ITV.[1] The entire series was available for streaming, with commercials, on ITV Hub after episode 1 was broadcast. Within a week the full series was also available, commercial-free, on BritBox in the UK.


In 1963, spy chief Major Dalby gives small-time crook and black-marketeer Corporal Harry Palmer a way out of Colchester Military Prison by offering him a job as an intelligence officer in his small but influential Whitehall security unit, WOOC(P).

The unit's investigation into a missing British nuclear scientist expands into a case of international espionage which is documented in the contents of the eponymous "IPCRESS File".

WOOC(P) is a (fictional) civilian department of the British intelligence community, reporting directly to the Cabinet. In the novel it is described as "one of the smallest and most important of the intelligence units" but it is never stated exactly what the initials stand for, only that it is ‘provisional.'[2] In episode one of the series, Dalby states that the unit is called ‘War Office Operational Communications (Provisional)’ and enjoys the fact that both MI5 and MI6 are envious of it.



ITV commissioned the series in December 2020.[3] Filming on the series began in March 2021 in Liverpool, Wirral and Shrewsbury.[4] Further locations in Croatia were used, including Zagreb (King Tomislav Square and the Archaeological Museum), Split, Rijeka and Opatija.[5] The visual effects were done by the UK-based company Koala FX.[6]

Contrary to previous adaptations, the story has been extensively reworked, with plot and some characters radically altered and a lot of new material added, making the TV series significantly different from Deighton's original. The series is also influenced by the 1965 film, most obviously by adopting the "Harry Palmer" and "Jean Courtney" character names coined for the film. Visually, director James Watkins makes several nods to the direction of Sidney J. Furie, with regular use of angled camera work, and in places borrows almost shot-for-shot the framing of certain scenes.

One of the most recognisable homages to the film is during the opening sequence in episode 1, featuring coffee grinding and coffee making, and the very first opening shot of Palmer's glasses. Watkins said "[It was a] little wink ... the gaze is out of focus and then it finds focus when he puts the glasses on."[7] Writing in The Guardian Stuart Jeffries comments that "this opening reference to 57-year-old movie eyewear is a surprising gambit by director James Watkins and writer John Hodge, given their creative betrayal elsewhere of the source material."[8]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date [9]
1"Episode 1"James WatkinsJohn Hodge6 March 2022 (2022-03-06)
Nuclear scientist Professor Dawson is kidnapped. Harry Palmer is freed from military prison and co-opted by British intelligence for a dangerous mission in Berlin.
2"Episode 2"James WatkinsJohn Hodge13 March 2022 (2022-03-13)
Dawson was seeing an unconventional psychotherapist, a Russian agent is bugged and Jean's life is threatened.
3"Episode 3"James WatkinsJohn Hodge20 March 2022 (2022-03-20)
Harry and Jean travel to Beirut in pursuit of Professor Dawson. Who is holding him and when will he be exchanged?
4"Episode 4"James WatkinsJohn Hodge27 March 2022 (2022-03-27)
Harry and Jean witness a neutron bomb test and Dalby confronts General Cathcart, suspecting American involvement in Dawson's abduction.
5"Episode 5"James WatkinsJohn Hodge3 April 2022 (2022-04-03)
Dalby's integrity and judgement may be compromised and Harry explores his psychoneurosis.
6"Episode 6"James WatkinsJohn Hodge10 April 2022 (2022-04-10)
Harry is tormented and the enemy finally make their move, threatening the stability of the free world.


Nick Hilton of The Independent gave the first episode four out of five stars, praising its 'vintage' approach to spy thrillers.[10]

Chris Bennion in The Telegraph laments that "Joe Cole is horribly miscast as Harry Palmer" but "the rest is terrific", calling this adaptation of Len Deighton's novel "atmospheric, cool and compelling."[11]

The Spectator's James Walton praised the "impeccably twisty" production but said its main aim "is to be as cool and stylish as the 1960s films and TV it was paying tribute to" and that "everyone involved will continue to speak and act not like people in real life, so much as characters in cool and stylish spy films."[12]

Writing in The Observer, Barbara Ellen gave The Ipcress File a cool review, saying that these types of show all hang on the leading man, stating that Joe Cole is "just too young looking, too choirboy-pretty" but goes on to write that "he's sneaking into the role like a cat through a side window. It's all in the cocky backchat, the crackles of masked intelligence, the wary glints; the acknowledgment that whatever else is going on in cold war Britain, for Palmer, surfing the class system is part of it.’.[13]

“It would be a pretty good drama”, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph if it didn't have to live up to the 1965 film. “Gorgeous period stylings, an atmospheric production and assured direction all do justice” to the story, but it lacks "charm". Still, the costumes are “fabulous”, the look of the show is "beautiful" and the story "motors along nicely," and Singh praises the production for sticking with Len Deighton's original creation and not trying to "turn Palmer into an action hero."[14]

Writing in The New Statesman, Rachel Cooke asked "Why remake The Ipcress File?", saying that "despite there being so many good spy novels waiting to be adapted, ITV proved it has no imagination by commissioning a reworking of the classic." Cooke laments Joe Cole's 'lack of charisma', says Lucy Boynton is "as woefully stiff as a Thunderbirds puppet", but praises Tom Hollander's performance as he "oozes patrician superiority". Cooke's piece concludes that "there's something more than a little ersatz about this series, as well as something quite boring."[15]

Stuart Jeffries, writing in The Guardian, suggests that what makes The Ipcress File worth reviving is that "now, as then, the Etonian death grip on politics and public service imperils Britain more than any tooled-up Russian." He gave the first episode four out of five stars, praised Cole's performance and the preservation of the novel's "snarling class politics".[8]

Writing in The Times about episode one, Carole Midgley asked if we need a remake of The Ipcress File and said Cole did a "restrained, nuanced job" but "it was always going to feel like watching the understudy standing in" and praised Tom Hollander as "the best thing in it", giving episode one three out of five stars.[16] By episode two, Midgley admitted to enjoying the show "more than I expected" and being won over by Cole's "cocky insouciance and grounded humanity... making, dare I say it, the character more his own."[17]

Also writing in The Times, Hugo Rifkind praised ITV's "cool and stylish" remake but found it a little too "cartoony and shallow". On the whole Rifkind enjoyed it saying that "It's Sunday night, it's ITV, and while the goodies might be a bit of a mess, at least the baddies are definitely bad. What more could you want?”.[18]

Rachel Sigee writing in the i gave the first episode four out of five stars. She praised Joe Cole's "fine performance" but said it was "a little detached for an everyman hero." Sigee says "the show looked sensational" and "a spy drama centred around the Soviet nuclear threat couldn't be more relevant" but given Russia's current war in Ukraine, "it's a little hard to stomach."[19]

Michael Hogan described it as "a gripping period thriller…where the script does the talking….the most enjoyable ITV drama in ages…" [citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roberts, Annie (24 February 2022). "ITV The Ipcress File: Release date, cast and teaser clip of new spy thriller". WalesOnline. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  2. ^ Deighton, Len (1962). The IPCRESS File. Penguin. p. 5.
  3. ^ Kanter, Jake (10 December 2020). "ITV Turns 'The Ipcress File' Into TV Series Penned By 'Trainspotting's John Hodge; Joe Cole, Lucy Boynton, Tom Hollander Star". Deadline.
  4. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (10 March 2021). "ITV Spy Series 'The Ipcress File' Starts Filming in Europe, Unveils First Look at Lucy Boynton, Joe Cole". Variety. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  5. ^ Vuka, Petra (8 May 2021). "Znate li koji su sve svjetski filmovi i serije snimani upravo u Hrvatskoj? Neki od njih snimaju se i sada" [Do you know all the world's films and series shot right here in Croatia? Some of them are being shot even right now]. Večernji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 29 September 2021.
  6. ^ "Koala FX". www.koalafx.co.uk. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  7. ^ Carr, Flora (21 February 2022). "The Ipcress File director says series contains "a little wink" to Michael Caine". Radio Times.
  8. ^ a b Jeffries, Stuart (6 March 2022). "The Ipcress File review – a working-class hero takes on the might of Russia". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "The Ipcress File". ITV. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  10. ^ Hilton, Nick (6 March 2022). "The Ipcress File is the warmest depiction of Anglo-Russian permafrost ever – review". The Independent.
  11. ^ Bennion, Chris (7 March 2022). "The Ipcress File, episode 1, review: a sexy spy thriller with one short-sighted bit of casting". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  12. ^ Walton, James (12 March 2022). "What'll happen next – or what's happened so far – is anybody's guess: The Ipcress File reviewed". The Spectator. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  13. ^ Ellen, Barbara (13 March 2022). "The week in TV". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Singh, Anita (13 March 2022). "The Ipcress File episode 2, review: thank goodness they didn't make Harry Palmer into an action hero". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  15. ^ Cooke, Rachel (6 March 2022). "Why remake The Ipcress File?". The New Statesman.
  16. ^ Midgley, Carol (6 March 2022). "The Ipcress File review — Tom Hollander shines in stylish remake, but did we need one?". The Times. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  17. ^ Midgley, Carol (13 March 2022). "Jeremy Kyle Show: Death on Daytime review — a show trading in misery gets its reckoning. Also reviewed: The Ipcress File". The Times. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  18. ^ Rifkind, Hugo (11 March 2022). "The Ipcress File review — is there any excuse for Cold War spy stories to be so confusing?". The Times. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  19. ^ Sigee, Rachael (6 March 2022). "The Ipcress File, ITV, review: Great remake – bad timing". iNews. Retrieved 21 March 2022.

External links[edit]