Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not a movie that will appeal to everyone. While the trailer may tease what at first appears to be a fast paced spy thriller, the reality is that the movie is in fact a far slower paced and intelligent piece of work which ultimately requires a lot from the viewer…whatever you do, just don’t leave the cinema for any reason, as you’re bound to be even more lost by the time you return! That’s right, you’re likely to spend the majority of the two hours struggling to keep up, caused mainly by the less than obvious and somewhat complex flashback structure used by director Tomas Alfredson. When you do get into the flow of things though, this is a very enjoyable and rewarding film, while the ending brings everything together in a clever and neat enough fashion to ensure you have an, “Ah-ha!” moment even if you were completely lost up until that point.
As I’ve mentioned above, the story is very clever, although I couldn’t help shake the feeling that it would be all the more rewarding if you’ve read the John Le Carre novel beforehand. I went in with knowing nothing more than what I’d seen in the trailers however, and still managed to enjoy it a great deal. Because of this, I obviously can’t comment on just how closely Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sticks to the source material, although it certainly brought the world of the British Intelligence and the 1970’s era in what looked to me to be an extremely convincing and realistic fashion. The script is a strong one, with a lot of thought clearly put into certain moments you can link together in your mind, not to mention the great twists and turns that are on offer. Just because this is a little slower paced than your average spy movie doesn’t mean it’s now equally as thrilling! It’s a great looking movie, and shot beautifully by Alfredson in a unique and memorable way which is sure to put him in contention for a ‘Best Director’ nod come awards season. Indeed, he seems perfectly suited for a movie such as this one, and even if you are unable to keep up (there were one or two people asking each other whether or not they understood it as I left the cinema) you’re sure to become completely engrossed in the world he creates, and in the story of George Smiley.
The cast is made up of what could easily be referred to simply as, “The Best Of British”. The talent on display here is phenomenal, with not a single weak performance no matter how big or small a role each actor has. Leading the ensemble is Gary Oldman as Smiley, a quiet man who unlike other well known big screen spies like Jason Bourne and James Bond, doesn’t need to make his presence felt with the use of his fists or weapons. It is instead his intelligence which result in him standing out from the crowd, with words speaking far louder than action in this instance. Oldman puts a lot into this role, with the most subtle of looks or expressions telling you as much about the character as I’m sure the descriptions in the novel must have. Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones and Mark Strong (to name but a few – I could easily list every single cast member) all give some of the best performances of their respective careers, and while none of their roles may have been meaty enough to secure any ‘Best Supporting Actor’ nominations as the huge amount of Oscar buzz surrounding Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy at the moment may lead you to believe, they truly help to elevate the movie to a whole other level.
So, what of the movies bad points? Well, it’s hard to find any! Everything from the way it’s shot to the score is perfect on the surface, but I can’t help shake the feeling that it could have been better had they structured it just a little more clearly. Not everyone will find it hard to follow, and I certainly understood it just fine, but the movie expects a little too much from the viewer at times. The flashbacks in particular are not handled well, while some scenes feel very out of place and awkwardly inserted, leaving Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy feeling more like a mess than a masterpiece until it’s all neatly wrapped up in the final act. It’s also not hard to find fault with the dialogue, with many terms and expressions that I’m sure were explained and elaborated upon in the novel not made clear…don’t be surprised to find entire scenes sounding like nothing more than gibberish! They seem like minor faults, and while Alfredson didn’t want to perhaps “dumb down” the adaptation, it stops this movie from being as perfect as the hype would lead you to believe.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is cinema at it’s best, and while it’s slightly let down by the messy way in which they tell the story, I have a feeling that it’ll be all the more rewarding on a second viewing. I for one hope we get to see Gary Oldman’s George Smiley on the big screen for another adaptation in future.