#233 / 365 – ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ – 126 mins
Cinema Challenge #93 / 115
It’s the 1970s, and mild-mannered former MI6 agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is struggling with forced semi-retirement when he’s suddenly recalled. It seems certain that there’s a double-agent working for the Soviets right at the top of the ‘Circus’ – MI6’s HQ in London’s Cambridge Circus. Smiley’s task is to find out which of his trusted former colleagues has been betraying Britain at the highest level for so many years. He soon identifies four suspects, but a tangled web of friendships and rivalries muddies the waters.
To say I was looking forward to seeing ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ after a classy, absorbing and faultless trailer would be something of an understatement. Adapted from John le Carre’s 1974 acclaimed Cold War spy novel (too which I haven’t read) which was then turned into a hugely successful 1979 BBC television series. This film adaptation from Tomas Alfredson who last gave us the rightfully universally acclaimed vampire chiller ‘Let the Right One In’, is a slow-moving affair filled with clever twists and a lot goes on within its 127 minutes, which requires 100% concentration throughout — there is no respite to be had.
Alfredson skilfully weaves the intelligent narrative over multiple flashbacks and isn’t afraid to let the material breathe and have periods of silence where the dialogue is kept to a minimal and is often coded. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is pure class in its exquisite surroundings, where Alfredson goes to meticulous lengths to give the audience an outstanding visual and auditory experience as he immerses you in a 70s shadowy, paranoia steeped grey world of post second world war life at the height of the Cold War.
Then there’s that ‘cast list’ which boasts a literal “who’s who” of great British thespians, surprisingly Helen Mirren, who is conspicuously missing, would have been a good fit for this group. Each of the performances captured in the film are of the highest quality. Tom Hardy continues to show what a fantastic chameleon actor he is.
However Tinker Tailor is Gary Oldman’s film and his delivery is absolutely electric of protagonist of George Smiley, who for the first 15 minutes doesn’t say a word, and he doesn’t need to as we discover everything we need to know from the eyes behind the thickly rimmed spectacles – this surely must rank as his greatest performance to date and the one that, dare I say it wins him his first Oscar?
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an intelligent, intense and riveting spy thriller that treats its audience with respect throughout. My only criticism I can give it is that arguably the film could have done with a slightly longer running time to allow for the principal suspects to establish themselves more. Tinker Tailor is an heavy contender for my film of the year – to which its got to beat off some stiff competition.