• The High Bright Sun (1965) - Atmospheric spy thriller set in exotic locations - 8/10 (23/06/18)

    The High Bright Sun (1965)

    The High Bright Sun is a movie that I watched as a child on German television and I immediately fell in love with it. I liked the cool title, the melodic soundtrack, the stunning landscapes, the solid acting and the gripping mixture between adventurous action scenes, historic references and a little love story. More or less twenty years later, I decided to revisit this film to see whether I would like it as much being an adult now. It turns out that I do.

    Great movies often start with few words but impressive images. This is also the case here. We see British soldiers on Cyprus who are looking tense and nervous while civilians look at them with scorn and sulk. These opening three minutes set the tone for the rest of the movie. The story revolves around the Cyprus Uprising against British rule in the late fifties. Juno is an American archaeology student of Cypriot origin who stays at the beautiful mansion of Doctor Andros, a childhood friend of her father. She nearly gets assaulted when two local teenagers mistake her for a British woman. Soon after, she witnesses how two British soldiers get killed in their vehicle. She arrives at the scene of the crime where a dying soldier tells her that he recognized the man who attacked him from a photograph before he loses consciousness and ultimately dies. It turns out that the assailant is a general and important figure in the resistance movement who is hiding at Doctor Andros' mansion. The rebels are afraid Juno could be aware of what's going on and betray them. Doctor Andros trusts her and believes she doesn't understand what's going on. Charismatic British intelligence officer McGuire seeks Juno's cooperation in order to dismantle the group of rebels. Tension rises as the young American student gets caught in a deadly conflict that isn't hers.

    There are three elements that distinguish this British production from most Hollywood productions around the same time. First of all, the movie has a gritty and tense tone from start to finish and even the few romantic passages are always quite short and not overacted. Secondly, the movie deals with some controversial topics such as codes of honor, extramarital relationships and even attempted rape. Thirdly, the movie isn't as one-sided as one could have expected. Some Cypriot rebels are pitiless while others show compassion. Some British soldiers are shown as brave while others are revealed as being stupid. This fits to the two lead characters. The American student is charming and friendly but she also risks the lives of those around her with her at times careless behavior. The British intelligence officer wants to solve murder cases and dismantle a group of rebels but he treats the American student rudely at times, makes fun of his superiors and even gets discharged at a certain point. The authentic characters are all very profound and have clear strengths and weaknesses.

    The only element one could criticize nowadays is that the movie has a lot of dialogues, especially in the middle section. However, the dialogues are very solid and add some content and depth to an authentic and suspenseful film. It's an intelligent action-thriller that takes its time to unfold and doesn't use too many special effects to convince. This is the kind of directing that I really like but younger audiences might find it slightly boring because they aren't used to this type of film-making. The last forty-five minutes or so are however more fast-paced than the rest and should keep any viewer on the edge of the seat.

    If you like action-thrillers with profound characters in an exotic setting, you will certainly like The High Bright Sun. Those who admire the first few James Bond movies will find something similar here but with a more realistic plot. Even though the movie obviously features the behavior, music and styles of the mid-sixties, it has stood the test of time as the story, settings and characters are quite authentic. It was a pleasure revisiting the movie and I would certainly watch it again and recommend it to anyone.

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