Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

{4/5} “We’re not so very different, you and I. We’ve both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another’s systems. Don’t you think it’s time to recognize there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine?”

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, released in 2011

It’s the 1970s, during the Cold War, and there’s a mole at the top of British Intelligence — retired spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) will find out who it is. Smiley and his boss, Control (John Hurt), were forced out after a disastrous operation — an attempt to find out who the mole was. Control has since died, and it’s up to Smiley to find out who is really a Russian agent.

This is a subtle and complex movie, one you have to pay attention to. It was a bit too subtle for me — there were several times where I was confused about what was happening. One flaw is that when it’s revealed who the mole is it’s not really a big deal — we don’t know any of the possibilities well enough.

But there’s a lot to like in the movie too. Oldman can be flamboyant but here gives a low-key performance — he’s determined and occasionally menacing in a quiet way. It seems like we’re given a more accurate taste of what it’s like to be a spy here than in many movies. The set design transports you back to the 70s. The music by Alberto Iglesias fits the slowly building suspense.

The movie is based on John le CarrĂ©’s novel, which was previously made into a TV miniseries (starring Alec Guinness) in 1979.

Gary Oldman (Beethoven in Immortal Beloved), of course, is brilliant. John Hurt (the guy with the alien in his chest in Alien) is nice to see even in a small role. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in the TV show Sherlock), Toby Jones (Truman Capote in Infamous), Colin Firth (George in A Single Man), and Mark Strong (Septimus in Stardust) all play other members of the intelligence service. Director Tomas Alfredson’s (Let the Right One In) previous movies are in Swedish, and might be worth checking out.

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 29th, 2012 at 7:45 pm and is filed under Reviews of movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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