Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) [8/10]

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy

My Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars out of 5, or 8/10)

In Short: Decent, original British spy thriller with great cast and screenplay

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a decent British spy thriller that does away with the James Bond, gun-toting, destructive, action-packed fare of recent times, and challenges us to sit for 90 minutes and analyse a thriller set within the bowels of the MI6 the way it should be made, without the artificial plot elements and clichés that we’ve become used to.

Though at times difficult to follow but never implausible, this thoughtful and well made film is one of 2011’s most impressive among a crop of mostly pathetic artificial extras. The cast are brilliant. Gary Oldman is at his career-best as George Smiley, supported by brilliant performances from Colin Firth and particularly the ever-prominent Tom Hardy, whose career seems to be on the up recently with a crop of notable recent performances. John Hurt’s ageing but wise face is also a nice comfort, and his reassuring voice (when I hear it I always think of: This is the sad tale of the township of Dogville…”) will put the viewer at ease early on. Other excellent performances include Mark Strong as an agent who was present a mass murder in Hungary, Colin Firth as the sophisticated but reassuring Bill Haydon, Benedict Cumberbatch as Guillam, who leads Smiley to Mark Strong, and I just have to mention a short cameo from British comedy queen Linda LaHughes Kathy Burke.

The plot, set in the 1970s in the midst of the Cold War, revolves around the detection of a mole within the deepest echelons of the MI6, who Control believe is passing information to the Russians. Smiley, himself a suspect, is led through by people and stories to discover the heard of the matter, uncovering some disturbing and distasteful truths along the way. The film has a remarkable pace, and the direction by Swede Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) is smooth and perfect for the film. In the hands of someone with less regard for images and their composure, the film could’ve looked far less sophisticated and comfortable.

The film is based on a popular book by John le Carré, which was then adapted into a popular TV series. Carré, also the author of books adapted into films such as The Constant Gardener and The Tailor of Panama, produced the film and even appears in a small cameo as a party guest. He has such a skill for writing brilliant, complex stories that feel so simple that it seems insulting to call them ‘stories.’ Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is perhaps his most magnificent achievement. Every line of dialogue, written by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan (the latter also penned recent hit films The Debt and The Men Who Stare at Goats) from Carré’s novel and approved by Carré, is fantastic and serves to keep the story going but also allow the viewer to sink into every sentence not as a puzzle piece, but simply a great piece of writing. The unexpected laugh from the audience in the theatre with me when one character blunty said the line “Fuck off” in such a British manner (evoking similar imagery and sound as a similar shot in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) goes to show how their screenplay can both thrill and entertain.

Though Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as fun and refreshing as it is to watch, grows tiresome after a while, it always manages to retain our interest, whether with the dialogue, plot twists, acting or direction; there is always something worth looking at on screen. None of the film’s subplots are pointless or boring, they are always interesting and relevant. Each cast member complements another in every scene, from the way they interact to the way they simply look at each other. When me and my girlfriend left the theatre after the film, she remarked: “David Fincher should’ve directed it.” I considered this for a few moments, then laughed, replying: “David Fincher wouldn’t have had so many cups of tea.”


Posted on February 1, 2012, in Movie Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I really liked this movie and I thought it was smart, entertaining, with typical British class and humour (the little that it had). The cast was fantastic, especially Gary Oldman and Mark Strong, and I was pleasantly surprised by Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy! Great review for a great movie!

  2. Gary Oldman was fantastic. I loved that this movie was all about the mystery of the plot and not just about action. The set design was incredible. It’s a movie that sticks with you long after you’ve seen it. It’s in my top 10 of 2011 for sure.

  3. Really didn’t like this one and think the editing was a big part of it. I don’t mind when I have to pay attention in a movie, but here I just didn’t manage to keep up with it.

  4. I am glad you got more from this than I did. I found it an OK, maybe better than average film.

    Thanks for the read

  5. I actually through the front end of the film was a bit more tedious than the back end. Still, it’s the most compelling narrative experience I had in a film this year and I liked the way the film meshed all the narrative pieces together gradually. I also liked the way the film treats all the characters. Even the characters we should probably hate or are at the periphery of the story are treated with reverence and sympathy.

    • Yeah, I think the film took a wee bit of time to get going, but progressed nicely once it got into it. Very smart and sophisticated, but never indulgent.

  6. Gary Oldman to win his first Oscar for this! Please Academy, do it!! You know you want to!!!

  7. Wonderful review. I also give the movie 8/10 I agree it was a bit tiresome at times. The way it was filmed, though is completely beautiful – I loved individual shots filled with gore or quite important elements of the story appearing on screen only for a little while.

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