Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving MI5 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file, threatening the... See full summary »
In the early 1970s during the Cold War, the head of British Intelligence, Control, resigns after an operation in Budapest, Hungary goes badly wrong. It transpires that Control believed one of four senior figures in the service was in fact a Russian agent - a mole - and the Hungary operation was an attempt to identify which of them it was. Smiley had been forced into retirement by the departure of Control, but is asked by a senior government figure to investigate a story told to him by a rogue agent, Ricky Tarr, that there was a mole. Smiley considers that the failure of the Hungary operation and the continuing success of Operation Witchcraft (an apparent source of significant Soviet intelligence) confirms this, and takes up the task of finding him. Written by
Compares poorly with the brilliant 1979 British television version
I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of this 2011 version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy with Gary Oldman, but when it finally arrived I was so disappointed that I considered leaving the theater shortly after the movie began. I didn't, but I should have.
To be fair to this current film, I admit that I have seen the British TV series version with Alec Guinness many times, so perhaps I'm merely biased. Frankly, though, - and despite the wonderful reviews of this film from many people - I don't see how anyone can take this dull, lifeless version seriously.
The acting in this film runs the entire gamut from A to B. Gary Oldman is no Alec Guinness. For all the taciturnity of his George Smiley, Guinness imbued his Smiley with genuine character, whereas Oldman is reduced to maintaining a stone-faced, unemotional countenance for the entire 2 hours 40 minutes duration of this film. Much has been made of Oldman's not saying a word in the first 18 minutes of the film, but this can be easily matched by some characters who had barely a sentence of two in the whole production. The usually formidable actor Ciaran Hinds must not have had more than 10 words total, and they were of absolutely no consequence. Academy Award winner Colin Firth had barely more to say, and I doubt if his role in the film contained even a whole page of dialog. Compare that to the brilliant 1979 performance in that role by the late Ian Richardson. The only character in this film who exuded any sense of real life was that of Jim Prideaux, played by Mark Strong. But Strong was not allowed to be anywhere near as "strong" as that of the character played in 1979 by the late Ian Bannen.
If I had not seen the earlier British television series I honestly doubt if I would have been able to follow the plot of this current movie. The film is dark, the characters rather dull, and flashbacks abound. I really believe the makers of this film expect viewers to already know the plot before arriving in the theater.
I have other quibbles. This film has the headquarters of MI-6 located in what looks to be a former warehouse. Inasmuch as MI-6 is an arm of the U. K. Foreign Office, are we expected to believe that the elite of the British intelligence establishment would be housed in those dark, dank conditions? And would spies work in an open office environment with no privacy? Hard to believe.
If you go to this film I hope you enjoy it. But I'd also recommend you get a DVD of the 1979 British TV series in which the acting, atmosphere, locations, and music are all far superior to this current version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy.
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