2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Espionage
Opens locally Friday, January 6th, 2012
Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, John Hurt, Tom Hardy
Based on the novel by John le Carre
Directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In)
I liked many of the individual parts that made up Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, from the performances of Gary Oldman and Colin Firth, to the authentic tone of the spy underworld that the film inhabited. In this world, it is all about information, and collecting intelligence. But must a movie that deals with who knows what leave us knowing so little? This film deals with intelligence, and if you don’t possess proportions of that in the vicinity of an Albert Einstein, it will leave you feeling destitute. I’d imagine then, that most folks will struggle to know just what the heck is going on.
The film, based on a 1973 novel of the same name (which was also made into a TV mini-series starring Alec Guiness), takes place in the mystique of the Cold War. There is a mole in the top levels of British Intelligence, which in this film consists of a small group of individuals referred to in code as “The Circus.” George Smiley (Oldman), a former intelligence agent, is brought out of retirement in an attempt to uncover the mole and to cork the Soviet’s flow of inside information.
Much of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy plays out like a British episode of Law & Order, with our protagonist Smiley making the rounds as he tries to get to the bottom of the situation at hand. His journey towards uncovering the truth is about as much fun as reading a 200-page briefing on advanced Cold War spy tactics. In other words, it isn’t very interesting unless you have a specific liking to the material. All of the characters speak in high-brow military code, as if the movie itself was intercepted by the audience and has yet to be decoded. I don’t personally require scene upon scene of exposition in order to figure a story out, but it would help to know just what the crap many of these characters are talking about at any given time. Not much, if anything, is ever explained. Some may think this film is cool for the exact reason that it’s cryptic, but I think that most will agree with me that the common viewer requires some kind of entry point. Tinker Tailor provides no such branch to grab on to.
We are left with a slowly drawn out spy story that is classified technically as a “thriller” only because it should be one…only problem is that it is better suited to induce snores than thrills.
On the bright side, Gary Oldman does create an intriguing character, who wears a constant poker face as not to give his enemies a tell. We get to glimpse how this kind of lifestyle could take its toll on a person, on a family. There is a strong group of supporting players too, all suspects in the mystery of the mole. It’s a shame that I figured out who the mole was within the first 5 minutes, just by noticing who happened to be the biggest movie star of the bunch.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy could have been a lot better, and may be serviceable for big fans of the genre, or fans of the original book or mini-series. It’s a rare smart film that would have actually benefited a bit from being dumbed down.
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