Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch
Release Date: September 16th
Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy effectively tarnishes the conventionally exciting spy thriller with the sense of loss and austerity that seized post-World War II Britain. It’s 1973, and Britain is struggling to establish its importance in the Cold War’s new world order. MI6’s dutiful old guard, including George Smiley (Gary Oldman), are being forced out after the murder of trusted spy Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) at the hands of the Russians.
As a result, a new wave of administrators come in, desperate to curry American favour, whilst suspicions rise among high command (or ‘the Circus’, as they call it) as to who might be a double agent. Smiley is brought back by the Government to find the mole and unravel a greater conspiracy that goes deeper than he could have imagined.
Throughout this adaptation of the John le Carré novel of the same name, Alfredson inhibits the film with a claustrophobic feel, and there’s an omnipresent grain in the shot, which only weighs down proceedings further. Working in Tinker, Tailor’s favour is a sense of overwhelming tension created by Alfredson and helped by an all-star cast, including Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech) and Tom Hardy (Bronson, Inception).
The film’s emotional high points are left in very capable hands and all involved get a chance to shine. Firth is bullish and gets all the best lines as the suave Bill Haydon, Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock) has a couple of devastating moments to play and it’s nice to see Mark Strong in a more nuanced role than his pantomime villain typecasting.
However, with such a large and talented ensemble, many promising subplots are left unsolved. Le Carré wrote several books that revolved around these characters, so the story probably lends itself to a sequel. Hardy is the obvious victim; Otwo couldn’t help but feel that his story was especially undercooked.
At the centre of it all is Gary Oldman, whose main objective is to marshal the plot along and for the most part, he is left to look stoic and allow the other players to bounce off him. It may seem a thankless role, but there are moments when Smiley breaks his reserved facade and Oldman gets to be truly mesmerising.
In the end, there seems to be too much plot to fit in just over two hours. The ending comes off as clumsy, hurried and somewhat unsatisfying, but there’s a lot to like about Tinker Tailor. Otwo anxiously awaits the highly probable sequel; they might work out the kinks next time round.
In a Nutshell: A taut political thriller that leaves too many loose ends to be considered truly great