Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy directed by Tomas Alfredson, starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Ciaràn Hands and John Hurt.
It is 1973. The Cold War continues to poison international relations. In Britain, as in other countries, the secret services are on maximum alert. Following a failed mission in Hungary, the head of MI6 has been sidelined with his loyal lieutenant, George Smiley. However, Smiley is soon secretly rehired on government orders due to fears that the service has been infiltrated by a Soviet double agent. With the assistance of young agent Peter Guillam, Smiley tries to flush out the mole but his past relations with a formidable Russian spy, Karla, soon catch up with him. While the identity of the mole remains a mystery, Ricki Tarr, a field agent on an undercover mission in Turkey, falls in love with a married woman, Irina, who claims to hold vital information. At the same time, Smiley learns that his old boss has narrowed down the list of suspects to five people: the ambitious Percy Alleline, charmer Bill Haydon, Roy Bland, who has hitherto always proved loyal, the zealous Toby Esterhase…and Smiley himself. In a climate of suspicion, manipulation and a manhunt, everyone finds themselves playing a dangerous game which could cost them their lives and plunge the world into chaos. The answers are beyond the reach of all concerned …
An adaptation of a novel by John Le Carré, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy gives us the opportunity to see Gary Oldman in a leading role once again. It is the antithesis of the approach taken in John Ford movies, which favors ‘action and not much dialog’. Here, words allow the characters to forget and accept their dealings. Everyone is absorbed in words and explanations except Gary Oldman. He delivers a restrained yet powerful performance with presence, composure and minimal dialog. His style is to listen and think just long enough to position his pawns, which is why the theme of chess pieces appears in the movie.
The sets are a critical part of the film with virtually monochrome lighting, skillfully controlled camera movements and juxtaposed horizontal and vertical lines. All of these details reflect the tunnel vision of characters when going about their work, as if the truth must be extracted from the walls surrounding them at all costs. Moreover, the tone changes abruptly when the plot progresses.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a spy film which takes time to instill its frosty atmosphere and for some viewers, it’s too long. The pretenses, lies and truth are so intertwined that the film can become confusing. It requires effort and commitment from viewers – nothing is simply handed to them on a plate.
This antidote to James Bond movies is elaborate and classy in a typically British way with talented actors. However, it also has the ability to disconcert with an atmosphere influenced by the artistic decisions of Tomas Alfredson, director of ‘Let the Right One In’, which is unusual even for a vampire film. Once again with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, he has proven to be one of the most talented filmmakers of his generation. The way in which he does something new and daring with a script set in the seventies is simply incredible! It is certainly a film that should be regarded as a work of cinema and not as entertainment.