Langton, Simon 1941-

views updated

LANGTON, Simon 1941-


Born November 5, 1941, in Amersham, England; son of David Langton (an actor).


Film and television director. Director of film The Whistle Blower, 1986. Director of television programs, including Anna Karenina, 1985, Mother Love, 1990, Pride and Prejudice, 1995, The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1999, Murder Rooms: The Kingdom of Bones, 2001, and several episodes of the Rosemary & Thyme series, 2004-06.


Winner of BAFTA television award for best drama or serial, 1990, for Mother Love.


Simon Langton is known primarily as a television director and producer, but he has also won widespread acclaim for directing the theatrical film The Whistle Blower. The screenplay is based on a novel by John Hale and concerns British intelligence operations, specifically a counterespionage department known as GCHQ. One high-ranking GCHQ agent's defection to the Soviet Union results in a spate of deaths among his underlings in the organization. Some are killed because they are suspected of cooperating with the traitor, others because they might expose unethical tactics used by the organization, and others are eliminated by Soviet agents because they might reveal the identity of another traitor, one who is a very high-ranking official.

The main character in the story is Frank Jones, played by Michael Caine. Jones's son, Nigel, works as a Russian translator for GCHQ. Nigel began his work with an idealistic outlook, but he slowly becomes disillusioned with his department, realizing that there is very little integrity there. Nigel finally must admit to himself that a number of suspicious suicides among his coworkers are undoubtedly murders committed by the GCHQ to keep official secrets safe. Jones urges Nigel to keep quiet about what he knows, or suspects. He is unconcerned and unconvinced of the moral issues; his primary hope is that his son hold onto his job and stay safe. Before long, however, Nigel also dies in an apparent suicide. Frank begins to investigate his son's death. As much as he would like to remain in denial about the truth, he is driven to uncover the conspiracy that took Nigel's life.

Reviewing The Whistle Blower for People, Tom Cunneff stated: "The James Bond films have always portrayed the world of espionage as escapist fantasy. For something closer to the real thing, check out this grim British import." Cunneff credited Langton with directing a "tightly woven" film that impresses. In addition to the espionage and mystery that form the superficial plot, the film also has much to say about matters of class and position within British society. Janet Maslin, reviewing the film for the New York Times, commented on its deeper layers: "While its intrigue plot is indeed suspenseful and tight, this film's real focus is on British society and its stratification. Mr. Langton, Julian Bond, the film's screenwriter … and an outstandingly fine cast explore these distinctions deftly." She concluded that The Whistle Blower was directed "in a swift, economical and nicely detailed style by Mr. Langton."



National Review, September 11, 1987, John Simon, review of The Whistle Blower, p. 65.

New York Times, July 10, 1987, Janet Maslin, review of The Whistle Blower.

People, September 21, 1987, Tom Cunneff, review of The Whistle Blower, p. 12.

Time, August 8, 2006, Richard Schickel, review of The Whistle Blower, p. 68.*

About this article

Langton, Simon 1941-

Updated About content Print Article