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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Movie Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy

This review is from our friends over at Bad Haven. They have revamped their site and it looks great. Go give them a look if you get the chance.

Plot – In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6′s echelons.
Director – Thomas Alfredson
Starring – Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Kathy Burke, David Decik
The cold war has been over for more than twenty years, so when I headed into the screening of Thomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I was wondering exactly what a cold war espionage thriller would have to offer.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. The movie surpassed all my expectations and delivered a gripping and hugely entertaining thriller without compromising it’s characters or story.
The plot follows a semi-retired spy by the name of George Smiley (Oldman) who is asked out of retirement by a government minister to investigate claims that there is a Russian double agent working in the upper echelons of MI6.
With the help of a junior member of the service (Cumberbatch), Smiley sets about exposing the mole who is likely to be one of the four most powerful spys in the country (Dencik, Firth, Jones, Hinds).
While it is true that a cold war espionage thrillers aren’t really relevant anymore, except as a period pieces, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is much more than just a thriller or period piece. It elevates itself above the average with wonderful performances from a fantastic cast, a gripping plot and subtle but classy direction.
Oldman is magnificent as the subdued yet calculating Smiley. His role was first brought to moving images by Alec Guinness in the seventies and even without seeing that adaptation it is obvious that Oldman has absorbed some of Guinness here. But he certainly makes the part his very own, the way only Gary Oldman can. He inhabits the character of Smiley completely and plays him as a shrewd but tired spy who has had to do things he wishes he hadn’t in the name of Queen and Country.
Oldman’s performance would have been all for nought if the supporting cast had been second rate, but the movie has one of the best casts I have seen in recent years. Firth, Jones, Hinds and Dencik are all excellent as the senior spies under suspicion, Cumberbatch is great as Oldman’s anxious sidekick and John Hurt is perfect as Control, the paranoid head of the intellegence service who is forced out after a bungled operation.
Although solid, Tom Hardy is probably the least effective cast member as ‘Scalphunter’ Ricki Tarr. Michael Fassbender was originally supposed to play the role and I think he might have brought a little more emotion to the rogue agent who falls in love with a Russian counterpart.
Alfredson’s direction is notable in that it is hardly noticeable. I was never aware of the camera unless I looked for it which is a testament to the subtlety and nous that the swede uses and the cinematography and art direction work perfectly together to create a a bleak and grimy 1970s London that reflects the shadiness of the characters’ business. Even the score is subtley effective and never intrudes on the narrative.
All things considered, I was quite surprised that I was so engrossed in a film whose subject matter was outdated in a genre that has been done to death. The real reason why Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy works is that it is only an espionage thriller in a narrative sense.
At it’s heart, the movie is actually about the characters’ relationships and personal betrayal. We are presented with a secret and closeted world filled with paranoid men who have little else in their lives except their work. When that world starts to unravel, it becomes evident that the double-crosses and lies affect these men personally because their colleagues are really the only friends that they ever had.
A cracking story that stands up despite being politically irrelevant, casting that was made to facilitate that story, impressive performances and technical subtlety all combine to make Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy one of the most entertaining spy dramas I have ever seen.
review by Karol Murray

1 comment:

  1. Very thorough review! I have actually not heard of this before, so it was especially interesting :)