Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy review

Tomas Alfredson shot to fame after his superb film Swedish vampire movie called Let the Right One In which turned out to be a staggering critical success. Swedish director Alfredson's next directorial effort is another adaptation of a novel and again critics are in awe of his most recent film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Based on the classic 1974 espionage cold war thriller by John Le CarrĂ©, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy concerns a recently retired George Smiley (Gary Oldman) being drafted in to identify the mole who is right at the top of the circus. The possibilities of the mole in the secret service come to light after a failed mission in Hungary in which an agent is shot by Hungarian and Russian troops. The mole is passing top secret information to the Russians and the mole is one of five men, Tinker (Percy Alleline), Tailor (Bill Haydon), Soldier (Roy Bland), Poor man (Toby Esterhase) and Spy (George Smiley) who are all played by Toby Jones, Colin Firth, CiarĂ¡n Hinds, David Dencik and Gary Oldman.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a master class in directorial efficiency and sheer acting talent, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a supremely well made film in terms of many filmmaking aspects, the performances are sensational, the cinematography is excellent and the script is absorbing. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not a thriller in the traditional sense (it's no Bourne or Bond movie) but it is a thriller (though Tomas Alfredson would not use that word to describe his film) that is driven by dialogue, tremendous performances and a story that allows the audience to figure it out for themselves. Knowledge of the novel would perhaps be useful for clarification as those who have not read the novel neither seen the 1979 TV drama of the same name will most likely need a second viewing to fully comprehend every aspect of the plot. Further evidence that Alfredson has a speciality in period detail is given more backing in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as the period detail here is just as beautifully done as it was in Let the Right One In.

It's hard to remain unimpressed by the artistic merits of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography is superb, really illuminating the smoke filled, bland rooms of the 1970s that emulate the private lives of these men who are, and I quote, rather 'under-fucked'. A very tense atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust that is shared between these five men is expertly raised. There is deep mistrust and tension between the five men who are the suspected moles and the audience feels this tension. The opening sequence bristles with tension as Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) checks all locations and persons who pose a threat to him from waiters to local residents, Prideaux and the viewer are totally unaware of where the danger is. The failure of the mission and plus Ricky Tar's Rear Window exploits in Istanbul shed light of a possible mole of a very high ranking in the Secret Service and this starts a series of betrayals and further mistrust among the five men

The assembled cast of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is possibly one of the greatest in a long time, featuring a cast that is predominantly British and consisting of the likes of Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth and Toby Jones to name but a few of the impressive British talent on show. On paper the cast list looks impressive but they also are impressive on screen with impressive turns from the supporting cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch (from BBC's Sherlock), who played Peter Guillam, and Tom Hardy (Ricki Tarr). All performances are mesmerising, so to pick a best performance is a difficult one but if I had to choose than Gary Oldman would be my pick. Gary Oldman is one of most versatile English actors working today; here he plays his role with subtle brilliance. It's a role that requires a lot facial expression and tweaking of the glasses yet Oldman manages to give a performance that is just as effective as a showy performance that drags the viewer's eyes. Oldman performance is Oscar worthy and he may finally get the award he has deserved throughout his career but one small doubt is that his performance is too subtle and to quiet to gain the attention of those at the Academy. The major supporting cast consisting of Firth, Jones and Hurt are also terrific and a film is always British if it has Roger Lloyd Pack in the cast.

We have found the film that is The King's Speech of 2011 in a sense that it is going to sweep the BAFTA awards with Oldman as a favourite to win the BAFTA for Best Actor (rather than the Oscar) and Alfredson going home with the Best Director and Best Film. However Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not flawless, knowledge of the book is helpful but a new viewer should not find the story to puzzling, the motives of the mole are not greatly expanded upon and the rather slow pacing may not pay off as well as it did in Of Gods and Men which contained characters the audience truly connected to. The slow pace may result in a film that may only be watched once as it may be less rewarding the second or third time of viewing. However Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a showcase of acting talent and directorial skill, Gary Oldman stands up tall and strong against a performance from Alec Guinness who made the very same role iconic in the 1979 TV Drama.



  1. I thought Oldman did a terrific job, but I felt the overall movie was harmed by the casting of the potential moles.


    To me it made the central mystery of the whole thing really obvious. (A Swedish actor, two character actors, and an Academy Award winning leading man - I wonder which one will have the juicy role of the mole in the organization.)

  2. Now you say it like that it is quite obvious. Makes total sense.

  3. It comes from years of watching TV shows when I was younger. When you saw a recognizable face you knew they were going to end up being the murderer, long-lost heir, love interest, etc. Ironically, TV stopped doing this, but movies have not. (Although they did a good job casting Sean Bean in Flightplan (2005), the modern remake of The Lady Vanishes.)