Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 2011.
Directed by Tomas Alfredson.
Starring Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Graham, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Kathy Burke, Ciaran Hinds, Simon McBurney and Roger Lloyd Pack.
There is a mole within the circus. Control (John Hurt) moves the pieces into play, but it falls to George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to uncover the traitor in their ranks.
There is something bewitching about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy seen through the eyes of Tomas Alfredson. A dowdy colour palette permeates every frame with an unsavoury sheen, while the film itself is punctuated by furtive gestures and awkward silences. Nicotine stained protagonists dominate dank offices swathed in wreaths of cigarette smoke, pausing briefly to objectify and undermine the few women inside this circus. That is the world of John le Carre circa 1974, when readers were first introduced to George Smiley.
Famously embodied by Sir Alec Guinness in the 1979 television adaptation, it became a landmark show that no one felt needed a remake. It spawned a sequel three years later in Smiley’s People, which featured the revered actor once again reprising his role. As a result, no one went near the novel again for over thirty years.
In 2010 when it did happen; with Tomas Alfredson directing, Hoyte Van Hoytema behind the camera and Gary Oldman front and centre; something sublime happened. The ghost of Sir Alec Guinness was laid to rest, with a central performance of such considered restraint, constricted emotion and human weakness, that it should be studied. In those two hours audiences were reminded what greatness looks like, as Gary Oldman created a foundation upon which others could build.
This tale of Cold War espionage, internal betrayal and fractured human relationships, features an ensemble cast on top form. Oscar winning actors, A-list movie stars in the making, and solid gold character performances make this film unique. John Hurt, Colin Firth and Mark Strong are just a few of those who make this world tangible. Some of those involved have never been better, as the sheer calibre of talent on screen pushed everyone to excel. Stand outs include Tom Hardy, Kathy Burke, Stephen Graham and Benedict Cumberbatch, entrenched in character amongst the teletypes and subterfuge.
Admirably, Tomas Alfredson revels in taking his time with this story, allowing audiences to taste the distrust as lives are casually traded like chess pieces. This 4K restoration, which marks the ten year anniversary of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy means that nothing is lost. Every moment of John Hurt’s chain smoking curmudgeon is captured in pin sharp detail, as Control bends the circus to his will. Elsewhere, Mark Strong and Colin Firth excel as Jim Prideaux and Bill Haydon respectively.
In adapting this novel, Peter Straughn and his late wife Bridget O’Connor have achieved the impossible, making a hugely complex tale effortlessly engaging. Time periods overlap, characters come and go, but no one feels superfluous. Pacing is perfect, dialogue is minimal, while on-screen information is abundant. This world feels lived in, these people feel important and the eventual resolution triumphantly melancholic.
Lavishing an 4K Ultra HD update on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has only highlighted the flawless quality of this work from every angle. After ten years the film not only feels fresh, but uniquely English in its approach to lying for a living.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is available to own on digital from December 6th and 4K UHD from December 20th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★