Documentarian Morris captures a revealing conversation with Cornwell ( pen name: John Le Carre), master of the twentieth century spy novel, a year before his death in 2020. Wise and articulate, Cornwell opens about his eventful life, covering early abandonment by his mother and his painful relationship with con man father Ronnie, as well as formative experiences in the British secret services during the Cold War. For color, Morris weaves in excerpts from various Le Carre film and TV adaptations, including “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” and “Smiley’s People.”
The Long-Island-born Morris and erudite Brit Cornwell are not an obvious match, but their rapport in this fascinating film belies a mutual respect which yields penetrating insights. Though Cornwell states upfront that his sex life is off-limits, he is surprisingly blunt and clear-eyed about his father, who served time in prison for fraud. Cornwell speaks of his abiding love of writing, and the real-life spies that inspired his fictional ones. Clocking in at 92 minutes, you wish the discussion had gone on longer. Still, kudos to Errol Morris for making it happen in the first place.