Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Reviews
That being said, this is a very dense, expertly filmed (every frame has context and meaning), vision that somehow is just too British Buttoned Down for it's own good. Director Tomas Alfredson moves the film along at a slow but steady pace - giving you time to contemplate all the clues and red herrings, just as the main character George Smiley (in a magnificently controlled performance by Gary Oldman), tries to work it all out.
The film starts out with a bang - a BSS agent enters the flat of BSS head man "Control" (the always wonderful John Hurt). Hurt tells the agent that he is going "off the books" to "bring over" a Hungarian Colonel who is dangling the ultimate carrot: the identity of a mole within the BSS. Of course, since there is a high level mole in place according to this source, Control cannot let anyone else within the agency know of this agent's mission.
The agent arrives in Budapest and makes contact with a man acting as a front for the Hungarian Colonel. Alfredson does a wonderful job of allowing the camera to follow the agents' gaze: taking in all the people hanging out in and around the outdoor café where the meet was scheduled. This paranoid viewpoint, where anyone and everyone could be a plant or enemy agent is wonderfully filmed and just one example of how every frame of the film is planned, staged and with meaning.
Later, Control steps down (in somewhat of a disgrace) and mentions to the "inner circle" that ageing agent Smiley is retiring as well. Now that Smiley is "outside" the circle, he is now free to investigate said circle and try to ferret out the mole.
So what comes next is a byzantine and complex puzzle with Smiley taking it all in and processing what it all means. There is no James Bond action here, just a very smart, minimalistic man pursuing the threads of a conspiracy. He looks at several of the inner circle, peopled by such European stalwarts as Colin Firth and Cairan Hinds. Firth in particular is a joy to watch as he seemingly floats above the actions around him with his winning smile.
In my mind what prevents this film from becoming the standard for all spy films is that somehow the sense of urgency is lacking. It is as if there is no life or death consequence and while it would be nice if the mole is discovered, one gets the sense that it isn't a deal breaker (which is absurd, for it indeed is - as one spy tells the other "everything we think is gold is shit"). Perhaps it is just this - the action is all words and wordplay - nothing wrong with that (as I'd wish most Hollywood films used a bit more discretion in the shoot em up dept.) - but the tension level never seems to heat up to the boiling point. Regardless, this is a very intelligent film that's beautifully crafted. It assumes that you have a degree of brain power, so it doesn't spoon feed you the clues on a platter... which is so reminiscent of Brit spy films of the 60's and 70's like The Ipcress File and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
Based on the best selling novel by veteran thriller writer John le Carre, Tinker Tailor tells the tale of a retired MI6 or "Circus" agent tracking down a mole or double agent in the organisation. Called out of retirement, George Smiley, ironically named because of his lack of happiness, is called out of retirement by the minister for SIS Sir Percy. Driven by a relatively low in the grand scheme of things, agent at the circus, Smiley is told that there is a mole: "Right at the top of the cirus." Keeping the agent, played by Benedict Cumberbath and recruting a retired special branch officer to his team, Smiley sets out to find who the mole is, out of the four main men in the circus, nicknamed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier and Spy.
Screen writers Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor have done an excellent job of adpating le Carre's difficult and complicated story. The narrative is by no means easy, with twists and turns every page, Straughan and O'Connor have mastered the excitement and the atmosphere of the novel extremely well, considering some call it the twentieth century's most un-adapatble novel.
But what really makes the narrative work is of course the cast. A cast to drool over. Gary Oldman, one of the most under-appreciated actors to walk this Earth stars as main man George Smiley. Despite not putting on the best performance in history, Oldman plays the character well, capturing much of what le Carre and Alec Guiness did in the 1979 BBC adaptation. There are already rumours that Oldman will get an Oscar nomination, despite the one month memory of the academy and the annoying but unfortunately sometimes real situation of Oscar nods turning into nothing.
Colin Firth is the other big man on the block who adds to the excellence of Tinker Tailor by doing his best in a pretty Firth-ish role, but still good with elements of hidden homosexuality adapted into his character of Bill Haydon. Tom Hardy, still cooling off from "Inception" last year is also good in his role of Ricki Tarr.
John Hurt and Toby Jones both play their small roles well, but the real show offs are Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch, fresh from warner bros film Sherlock Holmes and BBC tv series Sherlock respectively. Strong again steals the show with his deep emotional eyes and anger and happiness balanced perfectly and wrapped in a brand new person for the same old Strong.
Whilst Cumberbatch, picked up from Sherlock, shines through with his old looking blonde hair as the down the ranks agent within the circus. Although not the most crucial part, every time Cumberbatch walks on screen I found myself sitting forward with anticipation of him improving his last scene into an even better one. Kathy Burkes also makes a brief appearance as well as retired Special Branch agent man, whose name completely slips my mind.
But the true credit must go to director Tomas Alfredson. Best known for his own language Swedish film "Let The Right One In", Alfredson breaks free of the mould of his horror tradition and creates something that brings together all the elements that make a good film and improves them even more. Script, cast, set, atmosphere and more all tick the boxes extra strongly as Tinker Tailor settles into what it is.
Claiming the top spot for a second week in September since release, the film will be bested viewed not on DVD on a Wednesday raining boring afternoon in a couple of months, but now with the atmosphere and feel of the cinema, which contributes to this film much more than others released in the past few years.
Overall Tinker Tailor is a film that made a mistake. The mistake of releasing in September instead of January. For it is a film that would have received a full main course of Oscar nominations including Actor, Supporting, screenplay, director and picture. Perhaps it still will. However the one month memory of the Academy will probably prevent this. Despite that, Tinker Tailor will be remembered for many years as a magnificent film.
What it is not a success at is being a rip roaring spy tale that really draws you in and leaves you breathless. This is a slow, methodical, meticulous film more concerned with tone, mood, atmosphere, and minutia, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't help when the film is also very plot heavy, and you don't care about the plot.
It's the early 1970s and an elder statesman of MI6 is focred into retirement, only to be drawn back in to help ferret out a possible mole, who is likely one of his closest former associates. The case is solved, and bad situations begin to get restored, but that doesn't matter, because there's nothing at stake. I didn't care who the mole was when they revealed it, we never really get to know any of the characters, and the situation really doesn't seem to have any weight to it. I seriously doubt this is the case with the book.
But, I was hooked nonetheless. Much like the other Alfredson film I mentioned earlier this is only sort of a genre film. If anything, this is more like a docudrama that shows that realistically, being a spy is really boring. And that is actually pretty genius. This film isn't concerned with whether or not people care, and it is done so lovingly. There's some visceral thrills, and they're well done (and much needed), yet they're few and far between, over too quickly, and kidna unsatisfying in the grand scheme of things.
I do love the look of things though. You can definitely feel the influence of Sweden on this thing (and for any Swedish readers, please note that I'm not trying to reinforce any negative stereotypes). This is a very quiet, muted film that is unhurried, and probably rather accurate in its portrayal of 1970s British Intelligence.
In a way, this is a lot like Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd in that it's fine with being a classy unconventional spy thriller, but this one is less preachy, more artful, and the cast is somewhat better utilized. I mean, you've got Oldman in a wonderful performance, Tom Hardy (depsite a questionable wig), putting in some stellar work, and appearances from the always awesome Mark Strong, John Hurt, Colin Firth, and others.
All in all, a somewhat disappointing film in that it wasn't quite what I expected, yet it earns my respect for that same reason. I don't rate it higher because I couldn't really care, yet I found this slow, intelligent film engrossing enough to sit through it twice in a row, so take that as a very conflicted sort of review.
Nice to see an actor who I consider to be the best around now do something which shows his range with spot on character work. We'll just pretend Red Riding Hood was a bad dream.
Disappointing not so great film! This film fails on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. First, we learn almost nothing about the characters. Secondly, I really got tired of watching filing, shuffling of papers, and scenes of men sitting in chairs over and over without any real action. The cuts back and forth are confusing, the actors look extremely unattractive, and most of the scenes are of men sitting down and talking. Or not talking. They stare, they stare again, they mutter. I found this film to be toxic it was so dull. If you like these type of movies that takes forever to figure out the puzzle, and with a good cast, knock yourself out! But make sure you bring a pillow and a blanket.
In the early 1970s during the Cold War, the head of British Intelligence, Control, resigns after an operation in Budapest, Hungary goes badly wrong. It transpires that Control believed one of four senior figures in the service was in fact a Russian agent - a mole - and the Hungary operation was an attempt to identify which of them it was. Smiley had been forced into retirement by the departure of Control, but is asked by a senior government figure to investigate a story told to him by a rogue agent, Ricky Tarr, that there was a mole. Smiley considers that the failure of the Hungary operation and the continuing success of Operation Witchcraft (an apparent source of significant Soviet intelligence) confirms this, and takes up the task of finding him. Through the efforts of Peter Guillam, Smiley obtains information that eventually leads him to Jim Prideaux, the agent at the heart of the Hungary fiasco. He is then able to put together the pieces of the puzzle, which lead him to the identity of the mole and the true intent of Operation Witchcraft.
After a botched mission, the head of MI6, British Intelligence spymaster, known as Control (John Hurt) is sacked from the agency along with his number-one man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman). Soon after their sacking, information is revealed that a Soviet mole has infiltrated the Secret service and worked his way up to the highest echelon. Smiley is then approached to take on a new assignment: spy on the spies and find out who the mole could be.
The first thing to grab your attention about this film is its style. It captures London in the 1970's to the minutest detail and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema deserves every credit for his striking work here. To compliment the lush imagery is a perfectly pitched score by Alberto Iglesias and within minutes the game, that is espionage, is set. Alfredson is a director that obviously likes to work at a certain pace. That pace may be excruciatingly slow for some people but it can also be highly effective. In this case, it's the latter. This film ruminates long and hard on it's characters and their subtleties. However, it is so convoluted and dialogue driven that the slightest lapse in concentration will leave the film incomprehensible. I don't profess to have understood it entirely but I kept up to speed enough to be left satisfied with the outcome. My review of this may be posted a little early though, as this is a film that definitely requires at least two sittings. For that reason, I have settled on my current rating but that will only ever get higher if I get around that second viewing. A couple of criticisms I had was a lack of any real action. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting Jason Bourne to make a appearance but it threatened a few exciting set-pieces and then didn't deliver. The other was the identity of the double-agent; it became clear earlier than it should have which lessened the impact of the final revelation. These are small gripes though as the suspense and intrigue were engrossing and more than competently handled by the director and his eclectic cast of quality British actors - I happen to be an admirer of every one of them. It's Oldman though, in the lead role, that is the real standout. He's very reserved and it's a performance that may disappoint fans of his intense roles like Drexl from "True Romance" or Stansfield from "Leon" but he holds a presence that hints of something darker to his character. At first, it was a performance that I didn't really see what all the fuss - and Oscar nomination - was about. That was, until the film draws to close and you realise that Oldman has had you captivated for over two hours. The story itself is difficult to speak of as I'd be entering into spoiler territory, not to mention my review would be in danger of becoming very long-winded. Rest assured though, this is a thoroughly involving and accomplished mystery.
An enthralling and masterfully constructed spy thriller that is handled with such a deftness of skill that it doesn't allow you to switch off for a second.
"Trust no one. Suspect everyone."
Well, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn't the perfect film I had been waiting months to see, but it was still an intelligent and remarkably well made film. This is slow, meticulous filmmaking at work. The pace is sluggish, but the content is flying at us. If this was a fast paced movie, it would be impossible to keep up with. As it is, it is still a little hard to follow at times; but never is it not intriguing. The reason for the intrigue is the acting. Everyone is perfect in tuis film. Among them is one of my favorites, Gary Oldman. His performance here as George Smiley isn't necessarily my favorite from him, but damn if it isn't one of his best. He is at the top of his game here as an unglamorous spy. He isn't running, shooting, and jumping; he talks and sits, but the intrigue from his character is stunning.
This isn't the typical spy film we are used to. This isn't Mission Impossible or Bourne Identity. It's serious and realistic. It's more like The American, except much, much better. Tinker... won't be for everyone as I can see from the audiences reviews. It's slow pace and lack of big action scenes will put off a lot of casual movie goers. A lot of people went into this expecting the same type of film they've been accustomed to, and when a film isn't what you expect; you normally don't take well to it.
I can't say I loved the movie as I did have some problems with the extent to which we got to know it's characters(barely any). The suspects didn't seem to really matter to much in the story because we barely knew what was going on with them. Everything other than that was really well done though. The film looked great, and as I've stated before the acting was perfect. Not a masterpiece, but still a good movie.