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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

October 1, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Actors: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth

george-smiley.jpg (300×202)

Synopsis: George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is hauled out of retirement to help hunt out a Russian mole from within the upper echelons of the British secret service.

Review: After the lauded – and in my opinion, overrated – little Swedish vampire movie, Let the Right One In, its director, Tomas Alfredson, steps into the ‘big league’ with a remake of the seminal Seventies British TV spy thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. With the backing of moneyed production companies, Studio Canal and Working Title, and employing some of the most commercial names in British cinema – Gary Oldman and Colin Firth being the most prominent – Alfredson really goes to town with the material, but if anything, he risks overdosing the already rich pudding of a story, with such an overblown attention to the drab Seventies décor and mise en scene, that he’s a whisker away from stylising the film to death. Confirming the feeling I got from Let the Right One In that Alfredson is very much a ‘designer’ director, his prioritisation of aesthetics in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy seems to romanticise spydom and the Cold War in general, and I found some of the hardboiled dialogue quite clichéd and phoney.

Which brings me on to Gary Oldman’s central portrayal of Smiley, which has been praised in some circles. I actually found it to be very much a ‘performance’ and slightly conceited, and it seemed as if Oldman was trying almost too literally to channel Alec Guinness (the lead from the TV version) into the role. Beyond the heavy stylisation, one can start to relax into the labyrinth plot after a while, and I suppose it’s admirable that a film like this (due to its financial muscle and lead actors) might be able to sneak into the multiplexes and challenge the audiences with its dense plot and mature themes. (October 2011)

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