By Mark Fields

The Pigeon Tunnel

Long-retired British intelligence agent David Cornwell — better known to the world as master spy novelist John Le Carre — agreed to a series of probing interviews with filmmaker Errol Morris in the years right before his 2020 death (at age 89). The result is this lyrical and moody documentary, The Pigeon Tunnel.

The Pigeon Tunnel documents Le Carre’s colorful upbringing and early intelligence career, and reflects on how those elements shaped his life philosophy, world view and celebrated writing (Le Carre has authored more than 30, mostly espionage-centric novels including The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Little Drummer Girl.)

Morris has long taken a highly-creative approach to his documentaries, which include the acclaimed Gates of Heaven (1978), The Thin Blue Line (1988), The Fog of War (2003, Oscar winner), and The Unknown Known (2013). Albeit tightly focused on conversational yet probing interviews conducted by the filmmaker himself, the films are still structured with production elements more associated with fictional movies: cryptic re-enactments using actors, unconventional cut-away graphics and interstitials, and an overall evocative mood and sweep.

Morris’s expressive approach for documentaries and Le Carre’s world of intrigue (real and fictional) complement one another well, and the film is both moving and profound. A special shout-out to the eerie score, co-composed by Philip Glass (a frequent Morris collaborator) and Paul Leonard-Morgan, which provides a good deal of the drive for Morris’ satisfying film.

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed movies for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Over the years, Mark also has written on film for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark was an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University from 1998 to 2018. A career arts administrator, he retired in fall 2021 after 16 years as an executive at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House. Mark now leads bike tours part-time and is working on a screenplay. He lives in Trolley Square with his partner Wendy. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.