Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy


Most cold war spy films have ubiquitous elements about them. There is a drained lack of colour in establishing shots. Everyone chain-smokes and the amount of alcohol consumed makes one wonder how any spy managed to stay focused let alone alert! A good spy must have a house with squeaky wooden floorboards and there must be the sound of an old scratched gramophone record nearby playing a love song from years back which, once complete, just revolves with the sound of a needle click amplified louder than the song itself. Verbal communication is in riddles, nursery rhymes, cliches and code, whilst making love is impersonal and only happens when a snipper is watching.
Yup this film ticks all the boxes of that predictable list. And despite being an almost impossibly complex storyline to follow, it ends up being rather predictable and simple to digest, leaving one feeling a little like “was that it?”. There’s a mole in the secret service and recently retired George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is to sniff them out. Who could it be? Dunno? Try looking at the cast-list. Who’s the big name amongst the cast playing the suspects? What were they thinking?
Oldman is impressive as the inscrutable Smiley and though often quiet (he doesn’t even speak for the first 10 minutes of the film) has a presence which the audience, as well as fellow characters, cannot ignore. But for me the most enjoyable feature in this film is the cinematic time machine to 1973, taking us to both London and communist Hungary. The attention to detail is what you’d expect, but it is also deftly understated leaving you to absorb it’s flavour in measure with the story. So many other films overstate this “we’re in year so-and-so”, hammering the point home to distraction. But when done subtly, as in this film, it can really take you there.
Some themes were slightly overused mind. Endless shots of rooms from the outside of the window looking in. Lots of references in the script to being “grown-up” got a little tiresome. And volume throughout the film is considerably sparse. I know many thriller films like absolute silence before a startling moment, but whilst it lent the film great suspense to begin with, it later lent it a sense of anticlimax.
Oh and there are a lot of pivotal flashbacks in the film that took place at MI5’s Christmas party. Yes, I know! Hardly the first image of the secret service, is it? It’s where it all happened too, including who snogged who. And the irony that they’re all getting sloshed on Smirnoff vodka whilst fighting the Russians is repeated frequently throughout too. Good performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and Philip Martin Brown.
Oldman for best actor? I reckon he’ll get nominated. We’ll know January 24th 2012.


Posted in 2011, BAFTA's 2012, Oscar's 2012 | Leave a comment

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