If you’re in the market for an entertaining spy action film, look elsewhere. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a moody, deliberately paced Cold War
espionage drama. It’s also an intelligent, brilliantly-acted, skillfully-made film that will bore most of today’s text-during-the-film audience
The film makes no apologies for its style; which is incredibly atmospheric and meticulously plotted.
The film opens with the shooting of a British Intelligence agent in Hungary, setting in motion the search for, and giving credence to the
suspicion of, a Soviet mole inside the top level of MI-6 itself.
Former intelligence officer George Smiley is brought in to covertly investigate and draw out the traitor from among his former partners.
Tinker is a rare film that expects and demands its viewer to think. Don’t expect any exposition or narration. I will admit the film can be
difficult to follow at times. There are a lot of names and situations that we are expected to decipher for ourselves. Whether the film keeps
us too much in the dark is a legitimate contention, but one that also gives the film a unique quality. We are investigating the film much in
the same way Gary Oldman’s character is investigating his former British Intelligence associates.
Speaking of Oldman, he leads a phenomenal cast of British all-stars, all of which turn in impeccably detailed performances. Oldman’s
reserved, pensive Smiley is brilliantly brought to life through the veteran actor’s wonderfully understated presence. Smiley rarely shows
any outward emotion, but when we look into his face, we know exactly what is going on inside his head.
In fact, there are so many well-known performers in Tinker that it makes the film even more difficult to track. The true identity of the mole is
not telegraphed at all, and anyone who says they ‘figured it out’ is probably lying or has read the book by John le Carre.
Screenwriters Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan do an admirable job in adapting its very lengthy source material for the screen
without appearing to water it down.
Director Tomas Alfredson is equally impressive, assembling a brilliant cast and having the patience to tell this story with the thoughtfulness
and pace of a chess match. A metaphor used quite well in the film.
Alfredson creates a palpable sense of paranoia and anxiety without ever ratcheting up the drama above pure realism.
Contributing to the film’s strong atmosphere is cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema’s wonderfully bleak photography.
It’s too bad Alberto Iglesias’ score doesn’t fare as well. His awkward blend of styles never really adds much to the mood and in a few
instances actually distract from it.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a densely packed and meticulously detailed Cold War drama. It’s the very definition of a slow-burning thriller. It
may be difficult to follow at times, but there is no question that this is an extraordinarily well-crafted and executed film. If you have the
patience for it, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy will draw you in with its consuming atmosphere and keep you thinking (and deciphering) until after
the credits roll.
* * * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Written by: Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John
Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch
Cinematography by: Hoyte van Hoytema
Music by: Alberto Iglesias
Released: December 9, 2011; 127 Minutes