Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the movie that my friends and I intended to see the night we ended up seeing The Descendants. I really like Gary Oldman and when I hear that he was going to be in a film based on a John le Carre novel, I was ready to go opening day. Unfortunately, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was only playing in select theaters at that point (i.e. nowhere near the cultural node that is Albany, NY). It was released locally a few weeks later during my busiest work season and so I figured that I would have to wait until it came out on Netflix or DVD before I’d get a chance to see it. Luckily, a local theater, The Spectrum, plays movies worth seeing after the major box offices have kicked them to the curb.
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The title may have confused moviegoers with “spy” as this is a Drama/Mystery. It certainly confused the heavy-breathing moron who sat behind me with his wife griping about how bored he was the whole time. ”Then go home, asshole!” Sorry, guys, there are no fancy sports cars (unless you like early 70s Citroens), sophisticated gadgetry, or Pussy Galore here. However, there is the thrill of a more true-to-life espionage. After all, Tinker Tailor… was based on a le Carre novel and “le Carre” was a pseudonym for former British Intelligence agent, David Cornwell.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about a secret mission accepted by George Smiley (Oldman), an aged, recently sacked second-in-command of British Intelligence (“the Circus”) to determine whether or not there has been a long term mole within their organization that is feeding information to the Soviets. The story, which does progress slowly at times, is simultaneously crafty and convoluted in a way that keeps one guessing. Guessing and thinking. If you don’t like to think when you’re watching a movie, save yourself the $20. I was admittedly confused about the film’s chronology for a bit, but you can figure it out if you pay [close] attention. I myself would like a second viewing to fill in a few narrative holes.
The acting is superb. Gary Oldman’s stoic reservation early on in the film makes any time that he raises his voice a startling moment. John Hurt does a great job as always with his depiction of Control.
Mark Strong’s performance as Jim Prideaux is especially impressive and I would like to check out some of his other work. Virtually all of the cast’s major characters gave performances worth of acclaim.
Some reviewers criticized the cinematography for being drab. Idiots…it’s London, England. If you like mystery and color, try Giallo films…or Scooby Doo. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the cinematography was absolutely outstanding, but a handful of the shots had a chilling affect: the child breastfeeding on a recently iced mother’s teet, the sniper’s bloodshed tear, and the plane’s approach on the abandoned tarmac without a perception of depth.
If anything is wrong with the movie it’s the amount of information and character introductions to be delivered in 127 minutes. That, coupled with some bizarre editing choices leads to some unnecessary chronological confusion. I’m going to check out the 5-hour, 7-part Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy BBC mini-series starring Alec Guinness released back in 1979. Fitting roughly 300 minutes worth of narrative into a little over two hours may have been a little ambitious for German director, Tomas Alfredson.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the best movie that I have seen in a long time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that doesn’t treat going to the movies as pure escapism.