Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
This was a very interesting film- illustrated, really, by the fact that I loved it and Ashleigh hated it. Not a normal occurence with us, as we’re usually fairly in synch on film taste.
Truth be told, I’d been looking forward to Tinker Tailor… for a while now. I watched the original when I was quite young, and though I don’t remember all that much about it, I remember it fascinating and entertaining me. Which left this not-quite-a-remake (the original was a BBC TV miniseries, not a film) with big boots to fill.
The story is set in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, following British intelligence agent George Smiley. Smiley is assigned to hunt down a Soviet mole at the top of MI6, with the knowledge bequeathed by his former boss that it is one of four people.
The first thing to note about this is that it’s a proper spy film; as opposed to an action film in a tux, a la James Bond. In fact, I don’t even remember seeing a tux. It’s a slow, cerebral, atmospheric thriller, which builds suspense almost without you realising it. What violence there is, isn’t over the top or cartoon- and more shocking for it. What sex there is serves only a side story, and a function of the plot at that. And the spies in it actually do some spying.
A lot of thought has also been put into the setting. It has a really authentic feel of 1970s London, and whilst I have no comparative with which to verify this, it feels like a fairly likely picture of the intelligence world. Lots of reading paperwork, talking to people, and hanging out in very grungy looking warehouses.
It also boasts a host of British acting talent, led by Gary Oldman, including the likes of old stalwarts like John Hurt and Colin Firth, alongside rising stars like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. And really, there wasn’t a bad performance amongst them. I was particularly impressed with Cumberbatch, showing a versatility which Steven Moffat’s Sherlock didn’t quite manage to bring out. There’s an ancillary, but at the same time essential, scene of his which movingly demonstrates the price that these men paid for their jobs and country.
A lot of the criticism aimed at this film will be that it’s too slow, too quiet. I can understand where that’s coming from, and quite a lot of people will go to this expecting a more “traditional” spy film, with lots of explosions, and infeasibly suave men seducing incongruously attractive women. But I found myself lost in the intrigue, the quiet building of threat and tension as more of the mystery was unravelled.
I think this is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years. It’s a completely different kind of film, but whilst that endears it to me, it will put others off. If nothing else, it’s a showcase of British acting talent at it’s best. I’d recommend you go and see it for yourself, and see how it takes you.