The Pigeon Tunnel (2023, Errol Morris)

This is an extremely Errol Morris-y documentary about John le Carré, the novelist. I have only read one novel of his but I’ve seen multiple movies and at least one miniseries based on his works so I guess I felt familiar enough to watch it. Warning: this documentary spoils the ending of of the film based on his most famous book and spoils at least one novel as well as containing a few other minor spoilers.

The film consists primarily of an interview with David Cornwell, i.e. John le Carré, paired with Morris’ usual recreations and other visuals, as well as sections of him reading excerpts from his work. (This film is named after his memoir and some of the selections are from that book.)

Morris does his usual thing for his future length interviews, he asks questions and lets Cornwell talk and talk and talk. Turns out, aside from the stuff you likely know about him – he worked for both MI5 and MI6 – he has an extremely strange and interesting (and likely very difficult) childhood because his father was a conman. Much of the film is just Cornwell talking about his dad, but this is interesting because his dad is extremely interesting.

If you don’t like Morris’ interview films, you will probably not like this. Stylistically, he really, really leans into his own conventions/clichés, and I can see how that would be aggravating if you find them obnoxious or inappropriate to “documentary” filmmaking, or what have you. But I feel like it works pretty well for this particular type of film, just an interview with a somewhat famous person who is not that publicly well known (especially to a non-British audience).

Despite not really knowing his novels, I found it interesting and compelling. I’m glad I watched it and it’s not something I might have watched had Morris not made it.


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