Dir.: Tomas Alfredson
With: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth
I finally managed to go and watch it! Probably about a month after its release date – but better late than never, right?
There was always a lot of pressure on ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ – it is based on the famous novel by John le Carré, then there is the highly acclaimed BBC series with Alec Guinness in the title role and, of course, there is the all-star cast. If you look carefully, almost every single person in the film has recently appeared in something. It was actually rather distracting because instead of concentrating on the plot I was often trying to remember where I’d seen a particular actor or actress.
I’m aware that many people have complained that the plot was too complex to follow. I must heartily disagree. If you memorised the names of the main characters and paid attention to Smiley’s glasses (they told you whether a scene was a flashback or not), it really was not all that hard. In fact, it was most refreshing to watch such an intelligent thriller with a realistic and believable plot instead of having testosterone-fuelled oafs like Bond and Bourne run around trying to save the world. I say it was realistic because ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ managed to re-create the grim world of the 1970s secret service populated by bureaucratic men with synthetic shirts and receding hairlines. London appears as a run-down backdrop for an intricate chess game between the top echelons of MI6 and a mysterious Soviet puppeteer Karla.
Gary Oldman will surely get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Smiley – a retired agent called back to uncover a Soviet mole. His performance is very subtle, here is a man who presumably had seen a lot in his life, including personal betrayal. He is tired and stiff in the neck, yet he retains his fierce intelligence and humanity. His right-hand man is Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), he is young and still has the integrity that the top officers seem to have lost in their years in service. To stray away from the topic slightly – Benedict Cumberbatch will provide the voice for Smaug in Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ – and what a damn fine voice he has! The rest of the cast did their job well too. The ending was not too much of a surprise if you kept your eyes peeled but then I think this story is more about Smiley's investigation rather than the denouement.
This film is an interesting study of the nature of secrets and the reasons behind hiding something in the shadows of one’s consciousness, be it romantic or professional. The agents all lead a double life to some extent – they either cheat on their wives or girlfriends, are closeted homosexuals or lie to their best friends and colleagues. My only criticism is that the movie was rather self-indulgent at times and certain scenes could have been a bit more dynamic, but then I guess, this was a way of showing the suffocating world of the Cold War-era intelligence and its apparatchiks on both sides of the Iron Curtain.