Zack's Review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I'm no film director, but I think there's a limit to the amount of suspense a film can build through repetition of slowly zooming out from a cold, lonely British man's face as he gazes, perplexed, into the distance. Evidently Tomas Alfredson does not share my theory, because another apt four-word title for this film might be "Emotional Old Brits Stare." There are a handful of shocking, tense moments which do stand out, mostly because they manage to raise our pulses beyond comatose, but they are far too scattered to make this film remotely interesting. It felt like an earnest attempt to recreate the paranoid tension of Coppola's brilliant neurotic character study The Conversation, but it truly fails to let us connect with any character, particularly protagonist George Smiley, played with a gentle depth by Oldman that might be interesting if only it were supported in any way by the story or the film making. By the time a resolution rolls around, we don't care who did it, nor do we care whether Smiley succeeds; we mostly just want it to be finished. It's a bizarre disconnect I can't quite put my finger on -- clearly all the characters involved understand the stakes, desperately seek salvation, and react appropriately with every twist and turn, and yet we feel completely ostracized from the action. Normally, empathizing with any hero's journey simply requires an understanding of why the character is driven to these actions, which we relate to on our terms; but like this film's bizarre metaphor, all the pieces are there, but the game isn't worth playing.