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Freezing. John Le Carre's spy story has a new version. Tomas Alfredson the Swedish director of the chillingly great "Let The Righ On In" understands the British climate. Impersonal raincoats wore by the very personal Gary Oldman are only part of the story. An undercurrent of passionate wheelings and dealings with poker face players makes for an engrossing tale that allows us some kind of distance. The production design is a masterpiece on its on. Just look at the wallpapers. I'm not going to venture into the actual plot but the performances. Gary Oldman is superb in a slightly younger and more virile version of Alec Guinness who played George Smiley in a celebrated British miniseries in 1979. Colin Firth's bisexual turn brings a dark sort of lightness to the proceedings. Tom Hardy is also superb as are Mark Strong and John Hurt. If you're a Le Carre fan you'll be enthralled, if you're not you may become one.
Great cast of actors. Great visuals. But... the chronological editing of events is just too confusing. It goes back and forth through time and you've no idea of when a transition occurs, that is, if the next scene is a continuation of the last one or gone back in time or back to the present. I couldn't tell if there were 10 or 50 time changes. I could tell from the silence in the auditorium last night that no one else understood it either, perhaps this is why the critics have given it such high ratings. I think this gratuitous confusion added to the film really takes away from it. I won't bother trying to watch and understand it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really wanted to enjoy this film. I watch the 1979 TV series at least
once a year and was looking forward to a new, dark, edgy take on a
I was very disappointed. First, the plot is mashed up (for example Ricki Tarr, who should set Smiley's mole hunt in motion, does not appear until the half-way point). Secondly, characters are not developed and even altered (Percy Alleline is a peevish bully, rather than an over-promoted pompous buffoon who has been suckered into giving the KGB a pipeline into Western intelligence, and Peter Guillam is fashionably gay). We don't even get any sense of Bill Haydon's motivation to turn double agent apart from a throwaway line about the West being "rather horrible". Colin Firth does make more of Haydon's frustration at working for an increasingly impotent power - Britain - when he wants to make a mark on History and therefore turns to a more dynamic force which he believes the USSR to be.
There is no suspense in the key scenes where Peter Guillam steals a top secret file from the archives, or even in the revelation of the mole. What Hitchcock could have done with these sequences! One scene which did work for me on a symbolic level was the Christmas party. This is original to the film but does suggest how the British intelligence service (and, by implication, Britain itself) has become lazy and hedonistic, and is losing its grip.
Gary Oldman totally fails to capture George Smiley's self-deprecating intelligence. We get no indication of Smiley piecing together a jigsaw and realising what the 'Witchcraft' project really means. Film-makers often confuse British reserve with unemotional stolidity, and Oldman walks straight into that trap.
The cinematography looks good, with shadowy interiors suggesting the claustrophobia of the world of espionage, but the design for the Circus HQ is all wrong - it is not a huge open-plan office, but a series of small, seedy little rooms.
All in all this was a huge disappointment. I came straight home from the cinema and put the BBC series back into my DVD player.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
*** (out of 4)
Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a retired British agent who is placed back into the field to try and uncover the identity a mole within the ranks of the M16's who is giving information to Russia. TINKER TAYLOR SOLDIER SPY, adapted from John le Carre's novel, is certainly a very well-made movie and it features some terrific performances but I must admit that I got lost several times. It seems most people are commenting that they can't figure out the story and it seems many people are hating the movie for this and I can't blame them. However, even though I couldn't figure out all of the plot points, this type of confusion reminded me of THE BIG SLEEP with Humphrey Bogart, another movie where you couldn't follow the story but that didn't take away from the entertainment. Director Tomas Alfredson (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) does a marvelous job at keeping the film moving at a good pace even though it's deliberately a very slow one. It seems like the director wants to get every bit of detail within the frame so there are very slow, drawn out sequences where not much happens but you can look around and just about everything will grab your attention because you never know if it's a clue or not. I really loved the cold atmosphere that he brought to the film and it's almost identical to his vampire movie. The other very strong point is that you got some terrific actors doing strong work. Oldman is so great here that I'm surprised he's gotten as much attention as he has. This isn't James Bond and there's not a single bit of flash to his character but that's what makes the performance so great. I'm sure most actors would have wanted to add more flair to the part and this is something that Oldman did in many of his early great performances. He doesn't do that here and instead he really gives such a low-key performance that you just sit there riveted because his eyes tell you everything you need to know. What also impressed me was the way he came off to be constantly thinking about everything he's taking in. Several actors have talked that it's important to listen and think while on camera and Oldman does that brilliantly here. It certainly doesn't hurt that you have impressive support by Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, David Hencik, John Hurt and Tom Hardy. Again, the story makes very little sense or at least to me, someone who hasn't read the novel but everything else is just so perfectly done that the film remains entertaining.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ever since I first heard of this Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I knew I
wanted to see it. Primarily because of the cast, with Gary Oldman and
John Hurt two of the best underrated actors today, Colin Firth a vast
majority of the time delivering solid to marvellous work, Mark Strong
who impresses me more and more every time I see him and Tom Hardy and
Benedict Cumberbatch two of the most promising young stars working now.
Another point of interest is its source material and the 1979 version. At first, I did find the book somewhat a slow-burner and not to easy to get into. On repeat readings however, I do find it a compelling and very interesting piece of work. I had heard much about the 1979 version, and when I saw it I was more than impressed. It was tense, involving, I connected to the characters and Alec Guinness' performance in it for me was one of his most memorable and iconic of his very great career.
About this Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy it did have a lot to live up to, considering how great the book and the Alec Guinness version were. And I think it succeeds, it admirably condenses a very difficult book which I imagine is a daunting task, and does extremely well on its own merits too(which is how I will judge the film). At first, like the book it is a slow-burner to start with, but once the tension rises, the story gets going and more characters introduced the film becomes more absorbing. The ending I agree was a little rushed, but I personally didn't find it too convoluted.
I did find that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was very well made. The period recreation was wonderfully evoked, and even better than that it was authentic. The cinematography was also impressive, perhaps grainy, but it did suit the gritty, menacing tone of the film and atmosphere very well. The music is electrifying, it does play a subtle part in some scenes but also adds to any scene that is tense or shocking. The direction consistently is assured and don't fall into the trap of being too artsy.
The script is thoughtful and has the basic feel of the prose of the book. The story as I have said is slow to start with, and it is a good idea for those who haven't read the book or seen the 1979 version to have a good enough idea of it before watching, but the number of shocking scenes such as the killing of Hardy's love interest and Firth's character's demise and the atmosphere throughout kept me interested and thrilled. Also the part where Ciaron Hinds' character hums the George Formby song, it was terrifying in a way that they'd been listening in but Cumberbatch's face was a picture! The pace is solid, alive to nuances and doesn't plod so much as for me to call it dull or something like that.
Characterisation wise, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn't as good as the 1979 version or the book even, but in many ways I can understand. The 1979 version did have more time and room to delve more into the characters. That said, I do commend the film in doing what it could to make the characters interesting and perhaps complex and I think any "slow" pacing helped with this rather than hindered it. I also loved that the emotion in this film is very under the surface rather than hard hitting. The acting is excellent.
Gary Oldman is superb, George Smiley is perhaps one of his more subtler performances, but nonetheless it is still commanding and one of my personal favourite performances of his. Of the support cast, the standouts are Tom Hardy, whose character apart from Smiley was the film's most interesting, and Mark Strong whose charisma and intensity still captivates. Benedict Cumberbatch I initially wasn't sure about in regard to age, but the acting was so great I forgot about any worries. Colin Firth gives his usual solid performance, Toby Jones also excels and Kathy Burke does well in a hard role. John Hurt gives his all into what he's got, which goes to show how good an actor he is, he's got some good lines and excellent delivery but the character isn't as developed well or as natural as the rest.
Overall, a very interesting and well done movie. It was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and it ended up being one of my favourites too, which is saying a lot seeing how hit-and-miss so far 2011 has been for movies. 9/10 Bethany Cox
I have a VERY high ability to pay attention to very long films (having seen all of the Russian version of "War and Peace" at 414 minutes---TWICE, as well as "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" at 883 and 1620 minutes each), although I could not stick with "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy". I even tried watching this film on two different occasions--and just found my mind wandering. It isn't that the acting is bad (the film is made up of wonderful actors such as John Hurt and Colin Firth). And, perhaps it isn't because the story sucks--as a bazillion copies of the book have been sold and it also was a very successful British TV series. No, to me the trouble is the mood. The director chose to film the movie in the most somber manner possible. As a result, despite being a spy film, there is almost no energy. And everything is GRAY--very, very gray. Despite 1973 being a year known for its outrageous colors, everyone in the film wears gray and brown suits---and even the brown looked rather gray! This, combined with oppressively dismal music just made this a very unpleasant viewing experience for me. So unpleasant, I just didn't care at all for the characters and was kind of hoping international Communism would win JUST to shake it up and provide some interest!! I know the film was Oscar-nominated and folks love it based on the reviews I read, but apart from "Tree of Life", I can't think of a duller film that's received a nomination in recent years. I really wanted to like this.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a movie adapted from one of the best Cold
War era crime novels, with the same title with a slight difference:
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy". When you put commas as they appear on
the 1974 novel cover, you get to understand that a tinker is a spy, a
tailor is a spy, and a soldier also is a spy. And when you think of it,
you get to ask yourself this question:
"Why would a tinker turns a spy, and a tailor, and a soldier too?"
Take a guess to answer the question above. 'Cause if you don't, the movie, which is terribly directed, won't tell you what the spies are trying to find out. Here is the truth after the unknown. The truth lies underneath a tongue twister game Children of the Cold War in Britain used to play. The tongue twister is this, as it appears on the prologue of John le Carré 's novel:
"Tinker... Tailor... Soldier... Sailor... Rich... Poor... Beggar... Robber, take the sea-shells and take the jacket buttons, trade in daisy leaves and trade in sunflower seeds, now you did, we are friends, we are friends, we are friends"
While reading the novel, which is consisted of 42 episodes, 7 episodes for each occupation from the children's tongue twister and there are 6 pieces in the game of Chess. 7 times 6 equals to 42. When you pair them with each other, you get to solve the mystery:
Chess pieces from highest rank to the lowest rank: "King... Queen... Rook... Bishop... Knight... Pawn"
Let's pair them: "Tinker is King... Tailor is Queen... Soldier is Rook... Sailor is Bishop... Rich is Knight... Poor is Pawn"
When Bishop(Gary Oldman as Smiley) explores the Rook(John Hurt as Control)'s chess board with the names and photos of his subordinates(Knight and Pawn), even Smiley didn't know that he was the Bishop. And when the Knight(Mark Strong as Prideaux) is assassinated, what should the Rook do next? That's what the movie is about.
Since the promise is a heavy secret, which both the screenwriters and the director hides away from the audience, to fit the story into this sort of plot-structure ; then you don't have much to tell.
John le Carré 's novel is one of the best boring novels I've ever read in my life, even though it has a unique mystery. Yes, it's a mystery, but in fact there is nothing happening at the present time. It's just all thoughts and ideas about the events in the past, in order to find the mole that destroys the organization's plans. Should every crime story necessarily be involved with a mole?
So, don't expect nothing original to find, when you're watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, except some unique production aspects as follows:
1- Unpredictable hero 2- No bad guy to challenge against 3- An unrevealed secret turns good guys into bad guys 4- Suspicion, kills! 5- Spectacular views from some European cities, the shots from the city of Istanbul are the most accurate ones(except the Hotel shot) after other hit movies such as Eastern Promises, James Bond: From Russia With Love and a Jackie Chan comedy/crime flick
If you really want a good crime/thriller/mystery watch Robert De Niro and Matt Damon 's The Good Shepherd(2006), since in this specific genre and sub-genre mix no better movies filmed yet.
The acting was first-rate. The adaptation was horrible. There are so
many holes in the plot I felt as though I missed the first 15 minutes
of the movie......you know, the part where we're supposed to see the
birth of the story line and some character development. Anyone who
wasn't already familiar with the book would be completely lost. It's
like I was watching part 2 of a two-part miniseries without having seen
part 1. It was beyond disjointed. Did Cirian Hinds even have any lines
in the movie?? He was in scene after scene but I don't remember him
In any case, I was hugely disappointed in this film. The BBC miniseries with Alec Guiness is vastly superior.
If anybody says they could follow this movie without having read the
book, they are not telling the truth. The movie is unnecessarily
complex and confusing and not the least bit enjoyable to watch.
I would advise people to skip the first 2 hours of this movie and just catch the final 8 minutes. They will find out everything they need to know without having to endure a great deal of confusion and frustration.
I think this movie falls into the same category as the story about The Emperor Who Had No Clothes. People just aren't willing to admit that that they didn't know what the heck was going on.
I love the '79 TV serial and the book it was based on. I went to this
expecting, given the cast and LeCarre's involvement, that it would be
an interesting attempt to compress and update the original and that the
noble effort would fall short. Unfortunately, this film is a disaster
at every level. Not a single element rises to the level of the
original, most are far worse, and the failures are stupid and
In the course of trimming the material to film-length, someone decided to leave out character development. Lacon, Bland, Esterhazy and Haydon are semi-dimensional ciphers and Alleline and Control are peevish wasps. What a waste! Oldman, playing Smiley, tries for reserve and manages to look petrified; the botox budget must have been enormous. I have never appreciated the expressive and nuanced performances of Alec Guiness and the rest of the original cast so much.
By all means, watch the DVD of the original and its sequel. And if this bunch ever remakes Smiley's People, stay away.
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