Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (REVIEW)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review

By Henry Brown – 9/10

It’s the midst of the Cold War and 1970’s Britain is sandwiched between the might of the American war machine and Russia’s ruthless Iron Curtain. Trading in a dangerous game of secrets and lies, MI6 struggles to maintain intelligence supremacy amidst the chaotic melee of double agents, defecting informants and secret sources. When agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) is shot while on assignment in Hungary, the possibility surfaces of a hidden Soviet agent within the echelons of MI6. Drawn from retirement, espionage specialist George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is charged with discovering the informant, at peril to both himself and assistant Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch).

I’ll be honest: the first time I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I had no idea what was going on. Having never read John Le Carré’s novel of the same name, or the 1979 BBC TV mini series, my expectations were suitably off-kilter, as I believed I was going to see something like The Bourne Identity meets The Man Who Knew Too Much. Of course, I was completely wrong. 30 mins into the movie and I had a sudden revelation: this film actually expected me to work for my entertainment.

Now I know that using your brain should be an integral part of any decent movie experience, but it has been so long since I’ve seen a challenging film, that the concept seemed totally unfamiliar. My shame at not fully grasping the film was further compounded by my girlfriend’s effortless explanation of the plot during the drive home. Needless to say, I was soon back down the local multiplex, ready to give Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy another, more appreciative viewing.

And good job I did. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a meticulously crafted example of what a thriller should be. Forget high speed car chases, OTT gun fights and half baked storylines; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy focuses on the only thing that should matter in an espionage thriller: information.

The whole movie is a puzzle, pieces formed of flashbacks, brief but revealing conversations and hidden agendas. There’s no room for zoning out: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy demands your full attention as Smiley uncovers each layer of conspiracy in a fashion so subtle, that a single misheard line could cost you the film. Fitting when you consider that the film’s context is mirrored in the audience process of actually understanding it.

Having previously garnered international respect with Let The Right One In, director Tomas Alfredson was a perfect choice to helm such a character intensive film. Mining a fantastic performance from Gary Oldman (who I firmly believe will be in the running for next year’s Oscars), the supporting cast are by no means left out: Colin Firth, John Hurt, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch all play their roles admirably. Add to this a simple yet haunting score from Alberto Iglesias and very fitting ‘70’s visual style and the result is a spy thriller that is very hard to fault.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is subtle, intricate and poetic, an honest look at how National Intelligence really works. This is a film for those who choose The IPCRESS File over Bond, the people who expect more from their cinema than endless set pieces exploding. Its demanding, make no mistake, but the rewards are well worth the time. Go see it.


About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

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