Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011.
Directed by Tomas Alfredson.
Starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds, Stephen Graham and Kathy Burke.
During the Cold War a spy is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Russian double-agent inside the British intelligence community.
The cobwebs have been dusted off John le Carré's classic cold war spy novel once again As Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy gets a cinematic outing directed by Tomas Alfredson and starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Set in the 1970s the story follows George Smiley (Oldman), who after being forced out of MI6 alongside Control (Hurt) amidst rumours of a mole and a leaky ship, finds himself asked to search for and find the double agent within The Circus. Smiley must expose the mole before the credibility of the secret service and everything they are working towards falls around them like a house of cards. Russian secret intelligence laugh in the corridors of the Kremlin as MI6 play right into their hands. Suspicion, treachery, espionage, secrets and lies fill the corridors of The Circus and the dark alleys of London, Budapest and Istanbul as Smiley draws slowly closer to his man.
Smiley follows the crumbs of evidence left behind by Control and is aided by Peter (Cumberbatch) as his inside man sneaking documents out of The Circus. With Ricky Tarr (Hardy) returning from espionage missions in Eastern Europe carrying news that can aid Smiley’s investigation the wheels begin to slowly turn. Smiley knows that his man is one of four code names… Tinker… Tailor… Soldier… Poorman… with himself being previously considered as Beggarman. To emphasise the metaphor their pictures are taped to the pieces of a chessboard.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an incredibly slow paced film that ticks over gently and understated. Masses of breathing space perforate the tiny tit bits of evidence and truth amongst a sea of lies. With every piece of possible evidence Smiley takes moments to let them sink in, analyse them and let them breath. The film oozes British class and an understated elegance that prides itself on the ability of men to analyse the evidence and world around them rather than punch their way through the walls of lies. The film is beautifully shot with that same elegance and slow pace that silently screams with class through the browns, greys and the bland smoke filled office spaces occupied by the most secretive, cunning and untrustworthy men in London. A wonderful piece of British cinema.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for all its class and elegance is very, very slow. For those of you who prefer your spy films to have car chases, guns shooting and fist fights this isn’t for you. This is not James Bond. This is definitely not The Bourne Trilogy. Thinking back I can only remember 3 gunshots in the entire film, only one visible killing on screen and not a single chase scene. The sparse use of guns, violence and murder make each moment of violence ever more powerful.
The only fault I can pick with the film is that in following Smiley so closely we didn’t get to learn quite enough about the suspects. The Tinker, Tailor, Soldier and Poorman were all left a little vague and underdeveloped as Smiley gathered information and evidence, but the film avoided developing their characters. Maybe it was in order to keep them suspicious? What ever the reason the film’s one main fault cannot does not do anything to soil the film’s reputation or the enjoyment of watching it.
Each of the performances captured in the film are of the highest quality with Gary Oldman leading the way with his restrained intensity and thoughtful journey through the murky underworld of the secret intelligence service. Applause must also go to the director with Alfredson capturing the mood perfectly in his first English language film. Everything visual is underplayed so that the drama, suspense and story can be at their most emphatic. Fingers crossed the expected success of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy will see the remaining Smiley spy novels in the le Carré collection follow suit and receive cinematic outings oozing with British class.
For anyone who appreciates the finer side of film and a good slow burning spy thriller then this film is a must. Bring your notebook, bring your patience and maybe even bring a bucket of coffee to keep you wired. See if you can work out who is the mole leaking MI6 secrets to the Russians. Is it Tinker… Tailor… or Soldier… who’s the Spy?
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