Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tomas Alfredson’s first English language film is an adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel by John Le Carré, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and is an update of the seventies TV series starring Alec Guinness.

George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is instructed by the head of his old group of MI6 workers that there is a mole amongst them who is passing on vital information to the Russians. Smiley’s task is to come out of retirement, find out who that mole is, and dispatch them…

This film is superbly acted by an all-star British cast including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, John  Hurt, Mark Strong, Stephen Graham, Toby Jones, Kathy Burke (yep, that one)…erm, am I forgetting anyone? Probably. It’s a film full of incredible performances and a joy to watch them all act in the same room together.

Obviously the one main standout is Gary Oldman as George Smiley – an iconic role for Guinness and now an iconic role for him. Oldman looks about 20 years older than he actually is: frail, calm, quiet but still very clever and powerful underneath his cool exterior. He is definitely in with a good chance at that Best Actor Academy Award next year (and rightly so after he’s been overlooked for sooo long – he’s one of the best actors, not even British, out there and has been since he started).

Other standouts are Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam, Smiley’s loyal right hand man. He too is calm, focused and restrained until it all becomes too much for him. And Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in a brief but memorable role (and in a VERY bad wig) again shows why he’s getting so many good projects now – here he plays a much more sensitive but still intense character. Although maybe I’m slightly biased. AHEM. (Also seeing him and Cumberbatch acting in the same room together since they did the amazing Stuart A Life Backwards is great).

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is beautifully shot too. It’s all muted colours (greys, browns, blues…) taking away any notion of the spy world being glamorous – this is dull, ugly, horrid work. Not to mention dangerous. The set design is also excellent as are the costumes, putting us right into the time period.

This is a film filled with paranoia and every scene is dripping in tension. It nicely reflects the agents’ situation: they can’t trust ANYONE and they must always be on their guard. Alfredson also conveys a stoic British attitude throughout the film: everyone is calm and controlled, keeping their true feelings and emotions hidden until the secrets become unbearable for them and they start to crack.

The plot might be a little hard to swallow in the running time of a film (a TV series would have given more time for certain things to be expanded on) but Alfredson has made an amazing thriller that will have you gripped from beginning to end and which definitely benefits from repeated viewings.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on September 29, 2011.

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