To enjoy the new spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, one must be familiar with the history between Britain and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about this particular subject, so while I liked Tinker Tailor, I definitely didn’t entirely understand it. But regardless of whether you’ve cracked open a history book on the subject (or maybe the novel on which the film is based), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is worth a look.
It’s the midst of the Cold War and the British Intelligence Agency has a mole within its upper ranks. Recently ousted former agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is rehired to investigate whom within MI6 is giving secrets to the Soviets.
Part of the audience’s inevitable confusion comes from the plethora of characters. There are just way too many, and some are not vital to the advancement of the plot. Beyond that, many characters are addressed sometimes by code name and other times by their actual names, making it difficult to deduct who’s who for quite some time into the film.
Once one has the characters straightened out, their motives are quite another story. Especially once the mole is found, as his particular motivation and subsequent treatment by MI6 is perplexing. It probably boils down to my lack of Cold War knowledge, but I can’t help but think that it could have been written in a way for general audiences to easily grasp.
The novel on which Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based is beloved, so doing the book justice is no easy task. While I felt the writers could have done a bit better at tightening up the story, the look of the film is outstanding. Thanks to director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and DP Hoyte Van Hoytema (The Fighter), the look of Tinker Tailor perfectly captures the gloom and doom of the world during that period in history.
The performances were largely spectacular across the board, especially Gary Oldman. Oldman is typically a character actor, someone who completely disappears into the role that they play. Often this means big, quirky characters. George Smiley is anything but big and quirky, leaving Oldman the unusual task of being quiet and reserved. Luckily, Oldman has the range to pull it off, which serves not only his character, but also the overall mood of the film.
Like Smiley, the film is quiet and it moves rather slowly, but it’s smart. Despite leaving me scratching my head about the details, the overall story is interesting, and the look of the film, as well as Oldman’s performance, make Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy worth taking in.
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