Saturday, 17 September 2011

Of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a slow paced movie.

Not that I mean that in a bad way at all.

Of course, a film with a running time of two hours and seven minutes built upon moments of silence was never going to be as fast paced as any number of modern spy thrillers. But Tomas Alfredson (last seen directing the brilliant Let The Right One In back in 2008) has created a film that harkens back to the spy thrillers of yesteryear, and does away with the need for non-stop action.

Based on the 1974 novel John le Carré (as well as the 1979 BBC miniseries), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is heavily influenced by 1970s conspiracy thrillers. Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a retired M16 operative is called back in to the spy world, to investigate who within M16 is a Soviet mole. Playing the four suspects are Toby Jones as Percy Alleline (Tinker), Colin Firth as Bill Haydon (Tailor), Ciarán Hinds as Roy Bland (Soldier) and David Dencik as Toby Esterhase (Poorman). From there, the plot gets understandably more complex.

It is here, however, that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy runs into its biggest flaw. Whilst the plot may seem to drag at times (particularly during its first act), it would have been greatly improved if it had had more time to play-out its ideas. This is not to say that it should have been longer, more-so that maybe it should have been adapted as a miniseries, like the 1979 original. It would have given more time for actors such as Colin Firth and Toby Jones to make more of an impact, and to add weight to some suspects (such as Ciarán Hinds) who are sidelined for the majority of the film More time spent with the suspects would have allowed more chance to surprise the audience, rather than having it be one of two characters on whom the most time is spent.

But making it as a minseries would have probably acted as a double edged sword, in that whilst obvious improvements could have been made in terms of depth, the quality of actors would be almost sure to decline.

Whilst many of the film's actors are relegated to a single scene, these scenes are uniformly fantastic. Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) relating the events of his time to Russia to Smiley and Peter Guillam's (Bendict Cumberbatch) reactions as he is interrogated by the top members of Circus, being some of the best examples of the great acting work that is at hand in this film

This is of course probably Gary Oldman's strongest chance of winning an Oscar in years, and he is given ample opportunity to lay down his claim. This is particularly true in the scene where he recounts his sole encounter with the Russian spy, Karla, by re-enacting it to a distressed Bendict Cumberbatch. An utterly compelling scene that manages to shine in a film filled with so many of them.

Despite reservations at the films length, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a triumph. It's pacing may be a turn off to many but Tomas Alfredson has continued his sterling work from Let The Right One In and made another fantastic film. With the sheer strength of the acting talent on display, in particular the performances of Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch, and the sure to be award winning performance by Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy is simply put one of the best films released in 2011.


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