Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: A thinking man’s thriller

By on January 24, 2012

By Ben Nance–

Despite what James Bond would have you believe, working for MI6 is no glamorous affair. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is a movie grounded in a bleaker, more realistic spy universe, where a stolen archive file is infinitely more dangerous than a gun or a death ray. This film adaptation of the beloved John le Carré novel mines the twisted souls of the people orchestrating the Cold War. It possesses a dreary, distinctly British look, adding an extra layer of gloom to every raincloud and dampened street corner. The abundance of smoke-polluted offices and dated analog technology evokes an old-school vibe that perfectly nails the early seventies setting. The movie’s “who’s spying on whom” plot, which retains an impressive amount of the novel’s content, is quite dense, but also very rewarding once you finally solve its mysteries.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” centers on George Smiley, a former British Intelligence operative brought out of retirement to track down a Soviet-aiding mole in the heart of MI6, constantly referred to as “the Circus.” Once set in motion, the complex narrative unfolds like an understated game of cat and mouse meant to keep you guessing which poker-faced Brit is the real enemy. It lacks the chaotic noise of the “007” and “Bourne Identity” movies, but there is constantly some shocking event around the corner to keep you on your toes. Gary Oldman plays über-spy George Smiley with astonishing focus, resulting in a career-best performance. Known for playing wildly over-the-top villains in the past, Oldman proves here that he is a master of emotional subtlety in a surprisingly quiet role. He portrays
Oldman and Hardy are not alone in crafting memorable characters for the screen. Colin Firth, Toby Jones, John Hurt and Mark Strong all have scenery-chewing roles that explore the darker, more depraved elements of the spy world. What allows “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” to transcend the limitations of the genre is its emphasis on character detail. You may find yourself struggling at times to keep up with some of the more minor plot components, but the movie is brilliant nonetheless for its unique atmosphere and stark realism. Go in with your thinking cap on and you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable piece of cinema that pays off in a thrilling conclusion.Smiley as a patient and diligent man who manipulates others when he needs to, yet never seems to lose his good nature. He ends up emerging as a heroic symbol of virtue in a seedy profession where backstabbing is the name of the game. Tom Hardy also brings a welcomed dose of humanity to the movie in his role as a guilt-ridden Circus employee on the run.

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Photos courtesy Studio Canal

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