Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy</strong> (2011)

(On-demand video, July 2012) As the Cold War recedes from popular consciousness, it’s slowly taking on a nice historical patina.  Judging from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the color palette of that patina is going to be made of dull browns with the occasional flash of garish orange foam.  Well-adapted from John le Carré’s classic novel about the hunt for a Soviet mole within the British spy establishment, it faithfully sticks to the author’s portrayal of English spies as dull grey bureaucrats fighting for the realm from little drab offices.  It’s a refreshing antidote to the overblown portrayal of spies as action heroes, but it does require a willingness from viewers to adjust their entertainment expectations.  This is a slow film, and it doesn’t have much in terms of conventional thrills: The biggest suspense sequences of the film (sneaking documents from the archives, waiting for the mole to show up) are moments that would have been glossed-over in an action film.  So it’s no surprise if Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy works best as an atmospheric period piece, featuring two handfuls of capable actors and a mature view of the reality of the intelligence game that is far closer to reality than most other films.  Information here is far more important than bullets. Gary Oldman is mesmerizing as George Smiley, a spy who does his best work by interviewing people and then thinking really hard about what he has learned.  The surrounding cast is very strong, from Mark Strong’s atypical performance as a wounded ex-spy to Colin Firth’s unrepentant seducer to Toby Jones’s slimy ladder-climber.  The adaptation from the novel is skillful, as it seems to completely re-structure the chronology of the story while keeping much of the plot points intact.  The result may not be up to everyone’s favored speed, but it’s a skillful film, and one that does wonder in terms of pure atmosphere.  It works much like the novel does, as a counter-point to espionage fantasies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *