Skip to main content

Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy


Taut thrillers have been left by the wayside in recent years - action films and romantic comedies are more sure investments for studios - but here, a prize one, has been placed right into our laps.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens as George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is about to receive the boot. Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) and Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds) have the favor of Control (John Hurt) so the failure of their most recent assignment must fall square on the shoulders of Smiley.

Retirement suits Smiley well enough: he swims daily, reads the paper, and even decides to update his eye-wear (a nice reference when keeping track of the non-linear story). Yet retirement doesn't last long for Smiley, he is called in by Control. The Russians are have infiltrated "the circus" and Smiley has been tasked with finding a mole in his agency. When men start dying the stakes cannot be higher. But who can you trust?

Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carré’s novel gives in to the unrelenting suspicion of the Cold War where each agent is constantly wondering if the last sound they will hear is a silencer. Whether the camera closes in behind Smiley, Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) or Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy) in various states of distress, the feeling of paranoia is expertly captured by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema. Frequently placing these members of MI6 at the center of a wide-shot, looking over their shoulder, the audience wonders if it is their last appearance onscreen as well.

Spy films are very rarely this subdued, but the quiet, tension-filled moments of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy match John LeCarré's work perfectly. Gary Oldman gives one of the finest performances of his career as the quiet analyst, Smiley is not going to be brash enough to leap out at Academy voters, but his performance is no less impressive. He is glib in his answers, yet earnest in finding his own.

What impresses most about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the benign nature of it all. James Bond is the template for the genre, but this interpretation is far more honest. The agency is a self-contained one, made up of huddled, tweeded masses who believe themselves to be the last line between England and the Soviet Union, but they are just paper pushers. The real enemies are in their own ranks.

***1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…