Monday, October 03, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
After being forcibly retired after an operation in Hungary that results in an agent being shot, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is returned to action to find a mole amongst the highest echelons of Cold War British Intelligence.

Smiley's boss, Control (John Hurt), was also onto the traitor before he was forced out of power and Smiley immediately narrows his search down to one of four people. "Tinker" is new boss Percy Alleline (Toby Jones) with "Tailor", Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) as his deputy. "Soldier" is Roy Bland (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) and "Poorman" is Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), who make up the final two top employees of the "Circus" - the British Intelligence Headquarters. Smiley learns that he too was a suspect, "Beggerman".

Aided by Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Mendel (Roger Lloyd-Pack), Smiley uncovers a secret Government funded operation, "Witchcraft", which is supplying information from an unknown Soviet source and is linked to one - or more - of the four suspects.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a very British espionage movie, but cleverly manages to avoid any relation to that other famous British spy franchise by not including any of the glamour, girls or vodka martinis. Instead, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy focuses solely on involving the audience in a game of whodunnit by forcing them to deduce the culprit using mind power alone.

Of course without any of the James Bond-esque action, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy relies heavily on its storyline to help to keep the film flowing. John le Carré's 1974 novel of the same name was previously serialised in a 1979 BBC seven-part drama and transferring it onto the big screen was no mean feat. The cinematic version was always going to be under some scrutiny for those of a certain age who remember both the novel and the BBC version, but as one who hasn't read or watched the 1970's versions, I can concur that the storyline is excellent.

Whilst the film is initially difficult to follow, the pieces of the puzzle begin to knit together until each suspect could, even until the final reveal, have been the guilty party. Cleverly playing on the audience's willingness to try and deduce the culprit, the film travels through misdirection and false leads until the final reveal and subsequent explanation, when it is clear that it could not have been any other Circus employee.

At the helm, Gary Oldman is simply superb. So at one is he with the character that when you see the theatrical posters before and after the movie you realise that the pose is completely out of character. Oldman captures the essence of Smiley perfectly, neglecting to overpower his acting colleagues by keeping Smiley as the secluded mastermind that the role deserves.

Backing up the man who is a sure-fire Oscar nominee is a whole range of British acting talent who are utilised equally well. A special mention should be made to Bendict Cumberbatch who provides the film with its slightly faster paced moments keeping up the suspense as he brazenly attempts to take information from the Circus to help with the investigation. Director Tomas Alfredson (more famous for the 2008 Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In) also plays with the actors' own stereotypes and manages to force a snigger from Roger Lloyd-Pack (Only Fools and Horses' Trigger) in his first scene.

This is one film that I can't wait for the DVD release of, simply as an excuse to spot the clues that led Oldman's character to the guilty party because I feel that it is one film where one viewing is simply not enough to gather all the information that the film has to offer.

A superb and utterly engrossing masterpiece.

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