|Above: an action sequence in the film, shown in real time|
Control (John Hurt) is dead. The former head of British Intelligence (AKA SIS, AKA MI6, AKA --- in le Carré's books, anyway --- The Circus) died in disgrace. Convinced that there was a high-level mole feeding information to the Soviets, Control approved a mission to bring over a defector from the Eastern bloc that allegedly had hard proof as to the mole's identity. The mission was a failure; the MI6 agent, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), was identified and shot (not dead, though), and an international incident was born. Control and his right hand man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), were forced into retirement. The rest of Control's elite inner circle of intelligence men simply moved up a few rungs and have been ruling ever since.
|First new rule: reclining seats for the Q-Bert room|
|...and probably who's on the receiving end of this shot|
The acting in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is very low-key, but also quite good. I really liked Gary Oldman's portrayal of Smiley; it is difficult to make a deliberate, contemplative character come to life on film, but I thought Oldman's Smiley was brilliantly cold and calculating, but also jealous and lonely. His performance was more inaction than action, but I think that's what draws you in. The rest of the cast (which is pretty huge) is good, but the silence of Smiley is really what this film is about. Tom Hardy was good as the spy equivalent of a blunt instrument with awful, awful hair.
|Shouldn't spy jackets conceal things better than this?|
|"Get off my lawn!"|
|I just like saying his name. Try it: Cum-ber-batch!|
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the first major English-language film from director Tomas Alfredson, and I think he was a good stylistic match to the source material. For some reason, most of the Swedish directors I have seen have excelled at slowly-paced, subtle films, and that's exactly what this story needed. I liked how quiet and claustrophobic this movie felt at times, and I thought Alfredson did a great job with the actors. My only problem was how dense the narrative was. I like that Alfredson didn't dumb the story down or over-explain things, but this is a movie that demands your attention --- and if you're not sure that it makes sense, you're going to need a few viewings and a flow chart to make a definite conclusion.
|Because Smiley sure as hell won't tell you|
As much as I enjoyed this subtle, complex film, I wasn't as blown away as I had hoped. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is definitely a solid movie, but it's not the sort of movie that I want to re-watch in the immediate future. It's very, very slow --- and I think that pace fits the story well --- so I will need to be in just the right mood to watch this again. There's isn't anything about the film that I downright disliked, but (aside from the overall consistent quality) there wasn't anything that I positively loved, either. Oldman was great, but his role is almost an anti-presence in the film; who he isn't spending time with and what he's not saying aloud are kind of his defining traits. While that was artfully done, it's not the sort of performance that amps me up. Still, this is a very cerebral spy drama. It might not exactly "thrill," but it is one of the best examples of what espionage is (probably) truly like.