PlotBased on the novel by Leon Uris, Topaz is the story of... well, that’s kind of the problem. Topaz isn’t really one story. It’s a series of backstories that all collide.
Devereaux eventually leaves Cuba with the information and gives it to Nordstrom. Cuba is then forgotten as Devereaux learns that there is a mole within French Intelligence and he engages in a scheme to smoke the man out. The film ends after this.
This Film Frustrates MeThis film frustrates me so much. It has such potential, but it never achieves any of it. For example, it has some classic Hitchcock moments... but often meanders. The scene where Dubois gains access to the hotel, argues with Uribe, bribes him, gets what he needs and escapes deserves credit as one of Hitchcock’s best scenes. But then the film blows an hour on an irrelevant ex-lovers story between people we don’t care about.
So what is the problem? At times, I wonder if it isn’t that Hollywood has an ideological block which keeps it from seeing the Soviets as evil and therefore keeps Hollywood from creating solid conflicts. Indeed, too many spy films are about disillusioned spies who claim to see no difference between East and West. Maybe that’s why they had to create a non-communist SPECTRE, or why they love shifting the focus to rogue CIA operatives to get tension into their films? At other times, I wonder if maybe the writers just assume that defections and outing a mole are exciting enough that there’s no need to build an exciting story around it. But that's a bit like a Western involving only a single gun fight or stage coach robbery without anything else.
So putting all of this together, a great spy film must have strong characters who personalize the struggle between East and West in their struggle against each other; they must represent different and opposed points of view and they must come to despise each other. And they must use their expert skill to outwit their enemies, either to steal from them, to kill them, to escape them or to expose them, and scene after scene needs to involve close escapes that require a display of extraordinary spy skills or knowledge. When you think of it that way, you begin to see the problem with Topaz. At its best moments, Topaz involves great characters, but little was done with them. There were few close escapes. There was virtually no display of spy knowledge or skill. There was virtually no one-on-one cat and mouse game, and what there was felt over-matched for the hero. What’s more, large moments of Topaz involve the hero waiting for others to do his work for him or are spent on the dull not-love story in Cuba. This makes Topaz a tease only. It has a great premise and the bones of a great plot. It just doesn't have any meat on those bones.