Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
Based On: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Novel) By: John le Carré
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds
Country: UK, France, Germany
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 127 minutes
USA Release: 12/9/2011
On DVD (USA): 3/20/2012
Awards: 3 Academy Award Nominations, 2 BAFTA Award Wins, 9 BAFTA Award Nominations
Thirty seven years ago marked the release of the spy novel “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” the first in the Karla Trilogy by former MI5 and MI6 intelligence officer John le Carré (real name David John Moore Cornwell). The success of that novel led to the 1979 BBC seven part series (of the same name) starring Sir Alex Guinness. It also led to the making of the 1982 BBC series “Smiley’s People” (based the third and final book of the series). Now after all of these years we have the first feature film version for a new generation to enjoy.
The story that is “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is like that of most spy thrillers, it’s full of twists and turns. After a mission in Budapest goes horribly wrong Control (John Hurt) the head of British Intelligent resigns. But not before his suspicion of a mole was discovered, which shows he believed that one of four senior figures was a Russian agent. With that information a secret investigation is started to try and pinpoint who it might be, with everyone having there own opinion. And after George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is forced into early retirement he is asked to begin sorting through fact, fiction and just plain rumors started by a story told by rogue agent Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy). With everyone having there own story to tell Smiley is about to begin a journey that will take him everywhere.
Now to be honest spy thrillers aren’t always my go to movie as they can sometimes be a bit slow for my taste. But with “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” I very much enjoyed that they really kept me on my toes never really having any idea who the mole was going to be. Although I had my suspicions of who the mole might be, the story line had me second guessing myself constantly, but in the end I had it right all along (I owe that logic to how the formula for other spy movies are). Now I’m not saying that you will easily figure out who the mole is because you probably won’t unless you have; 1: seen a lot of spy thrillers, 2: read the book or 3: seen the mini-series. Of course with the first factor there is still a chance you can be wrong, but that is besides the point because seeing this is suppose to take you on this edge of your seat ride, and it definitely accomplishes that.
Anyways going into this I was most excited to see what Tomas Alfredson brought to the table as director. Ever since I saw “Let The Right One In”, I have enjoyed finding out more about him but haven’t seen any of his other work due to lack of resources. That aside I love Alfredson’s work with both films, he has great talent that I hope will start to bring more of his work to the United States. He has a great voice for visual story telling having his sets be very precise and as well as practical. Also present is his use of color palettes that really set the tone, like that of the background of conference room as well as the use of natural light which makes things look very realistic and dim.
Even though I haven’t read the book I thought that Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan did an excellent job of constructing this adaptation. It kept true to the formula that many spy thrillers use while still keeping you on your toes which is how I suspect the novel to be as well. They also do a great job of using the terminology while not making it hard to understand, they make sure you understand who or what they are talking about. Along with the writing was the set designed that has you completely confident that what your seeing is exactly how it would look back in the day. From the cars to the house and everything in-between along with the costume design I felt like I had been transported to the time of records, bell-bottoms and the energy crisis.
The rest of course is left to the actors themselves and like with the rest of the film did an outstanding job. From beginning to end I felt like I was watching a cross between a film and a stage production with every actor giving a full and round performance. And although not everyone in this had a great big part I’m going to mention them because without them…well you know. In some of the supporting roles we had John Hurt as the capable Control; Stephen Graham as Jerry; Toby Jones who has been in many many films this year played Percy Alleline or “Tinker”; Ciarán Hinds as Roy Bland or “Soldier”; Colin Firth as Bill Haydon or “Tailor”; and Mark Strong who played Jim Prideaux. Each of these actors did a excellent job in their respected roles, each gave a performance that left you still guessing who the mole was.
The rest of the actors to list all had larger roles, of those actors their were Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam. Cumberbatch was brilliant as Smiley’s unofficial right hand man, he was the one that did a lot of digging from the inside and without him who knows if Smiley would have found what he was looking for. There is also Tom Hardy who played the informant of the mole information and also rouge agent Ricki Tarr. Like with Cumberbatch, Hardy was also excellent in his role, we watch as Ricki struggles with a lot of information and also cope with the events that have happened to him recently. But it is Gary Oldman who is the most outstanding in this film as he plays George Smiley. Oldman delivers many great things to this role, he bring along smarts as well as misconception. With him going through every story about the mole he can find, he takes us along on the winding road so far that it almost seems like we might never know at least not in this first story. But in the end Smiley find justice to the person that deserves it.
Overall “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” delivers a puzzle of espionage and paranoia. It will have you trying to guess the outcome from the moment you sit down until the very end. Director Tomas Alfredson has helped bring this novel to life for a new generation of spy lovers. And with Gary Oldman in the main chair as George Smiley maybe they will also attempt to bring book two and three to the big screen. As Oldman will become just as iconic for this role as it’s predecessor Sir Alex Guinness was.