Movie review: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

By Erich Hilkert

Movie review: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

If you’re thinking of seeing the much-talked-about spy movie “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” that just opened because you like James Bond, you might want to head in the other direction and try another spy movie. Maybe the one with a certain prominent member of the Church of Scientology. However, if you’re in the game for a cerebral spy movie that plays out like a chess match, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is probably what you’re looking for.

This is the movie adaptation of the classic John LeCarre Cold War era spy novel. Five years after its publication, the book became a television miniseries starring Alec Guinness. The miniseries was roughly five hours long and still couldn’t manage to keep all the details from the labyrinthine book. So as you can imagine, the movie is forced to cut out quite a few details. For better or for worse, the audience is given a seriously condensed version of the story.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is a period piece, but one that bothers to capture the fine details. Director Tomas Alfredson did a fine job in his previous film, “Let the Right One In.” In it, Alfredson not only brought a fresh take to what had seemed to become an outdated genre, vampire films, but he also captured the cold setting of Sweden and fine details of a small town perfectly. In “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” some shots are given a grainy texture that captures a sort of 1970s feel, a time when the Cold War was still a serious matter. Alfredson brings muted colors to shots of gloomy, overcast days in London.

The film opens with Control, played by John Hurt, giving orders to Jim Prideaux to go to Budapest. Control is the boss of “The Circus,” or MI6, and he believes the group has a mole in their ranks acting as a double agent for Russia. Bill is to go to Budapest to find more clues about which agent is the mole. Control gives code names to the three prime suspects and provides two other possible suspects. Percy Alleline is dubbed “Tinker,” Bill Haydon is “Tailor,” and Roy Bland is “Soldier.” After the opening scenes, George Smiley is secretly given the charge to figure out what happened in Budapest and gain more clues in solving the mystery of the double agent.

Gary Oldman is outstanding in the role of George Smiley. There is a scene in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” that captures the nature of spies: “We loners are good watchers,” a character tells a young boy. This is precisely what Oldman captures in this film. Smiley is a character who must watch others carefully, but who also constantly mulls over their conversations in his head, thinks over the fine details and reflects on past actions. Oldman captures the small nuances of Smiley—the spy trying on a glove or perfectly remembering the details of a lighter lost twenty years before.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” isn’t an action-packed spy movie or an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it has plenty of plot twists and a main character who is much more likely to be a real spy than the spies you would find in blockbuster action movies. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is a spy movie that is involving and contains refreshing bits of realism that most espionage films lack.

Rating: 3.5/4

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