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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Directed by a cinematographer, not a story teller

Author: scaevola
25 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've both read the book and watched the TV miniseries starring Alec Guinness. But the film has to stand on it's own. I don't think it did. I became increasingly disappointed as the film progressed. The ending was an absolute fizzle.

The director spends too much time on long empty pauses, getting from here to there, and sitting quietly in ugly rooms. The film seems to be more about getting good "shots" than telling a cohesive and gripping story. Even the more tense moments devolve into mere 'business.' Yawn. I imagine some people were lost. I know I was in spots. I also imagine some people just didn't care by the end.

Some of the director's more dubious choices pulled me right out of the film. Did we need to keep seeing the chess pieces? Got it the first time. The shot of Control dead in the hospital felt clumsy and disconnected. Why waste all that time with Smiley swimming in muddy water? We get it. Move on. The Christmas party flashbacks interrupted the story with no value added. And the time wasted in buying new glasses so we can tell future from past was clumsy and sophomoric. Cumberbatch played his big scene beautifully, but the device of making him gay was ludicrous. Honestly, a gay partner in this world would NOT be secret.

I'd trade all of that for a bit more character development. I had trouble placing—or caring about—the players throughout. Smiley was especially flat and remote—his sharp intelligence and drive lost in empty silence. The meeting with Connie could have been a poignant reminder of the Circus that was, but here it's just a plot device. No Karla? That scene should have been a mine of material about these two titans, yet we get a flat narrative.

If the effort made in manipulating our visual field was spent on the story, this could have been so much more. Instead, it falls far short of engaging us in a very personalized tale of betrayal and the decades- long manipulation of an entire service.

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39 out of 73 people found the following review useful:

Engrossing, slow-burn espionage drama is adult viewing

Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
9 January 2012

It says a lot about the film that there's a post at the front page right now calling it the emperor's new clothes, doesn't it? Oh, the film may turn out to be complete bunk when you watch it, but you just know it's going to be interesting. Right?

It is. It's one of the most engrossing stories I've been told. It ticks for me all the same boxes The Lives of Others did; Cold War, cold souls, coded eyes looking everywhere. The very best that cinematic deceit can offer.

I cannot tell you what it does or doesn't to the book and TV series, only that I was so stoked that I have the latter here with me to watch. But that is another post.

This, this you have to work to enjoy. It's directly structured to receive you but you have to be the spy, actively so. To better explain how this works, imagine Nolan had done this. There would be an architectural puzzle you'd be called to solve, boxes to arrange, but constant verbiage that would point for you the order of the pieces. It would seem like cerebral work, where in fact it would be like doing a crossword. Why this works by contrast, is the complete abstraction that permeates the story. Here, in dingy murky England, as well as abroad, then as well as now; there are no clear demarcations, and no one to guide us. Our detective is as much a cipher as anyone else, also part of the chess pawns we're called to move.

The broader idea is that the powers in control of this world that many of us experienced from one corner and believed elsewhere to be better, brighter, are equally ruthless, equally cunning, that the game unfolding between them has been so diffused it has drained the world of any color that would make a difference. England looks every bit as we were told was on the other side of the Curtain, pallid shambles.

So in order to get to the bottom of things, you have to abstract from your end. It's not enough to see spies outwit each other, you will have to see like one. You will need to be able to see every detail without being bogged down by any. You will need to leave this as you found it, having touched every corner. Move swiftly back and forth between the pieces, and move passionless, detached, knowing it's going to be always a little bigger and more intricate than you can immediately fathom.

Gary Oldman is simply superb in this, a role he cultivated as Gordon in the Batman films. It's a joy to be able to watch a great actor erase his presence.

For Smiley the point is to solve the case. Ours is getting to see how he tinkers and tailors the narrative. The resolution is an anti-climax, and we get to know all there is to know here. It was an aesthetic choice we learn, as much as a moral one.

Again neither of this is what is at stake in our film. Aesthetically, it is a simply drab, controlled affair. It was perhaps a wise choice that a Swede was brought in to direct, from a country that never having had any stakes in the game. But it's the only false note here, because he merely colors the thing. Morally, the whole thing is meant to be moot. Who knows what ruthlessness Smiley and Control perpetrated from their end.

No, the point is that you get to watch a world unfold beyond control. You can only spy. The whole shifting world is a distant reflection on your glasses. I get shivers just thinking what Antonioni could have done with this, it should have been his project after The Passenger.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Classic espionage thriller that required more running time than well-known faces.

Author: Koundinya from India
26 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The running time of the movie is roughly half to that of the TV series. It's running time demands many key subplots be cut short. Yet, the wonderful editing and screenplay make this is a must-watch espionage movie.

The screenplay of the movie, I felt, was written on the assumption that the movie-goers would have watched the TV series as well. Many key sentences that should have been spoken are simply shown as perceived and understood by the other characters, which might be a little difficult for those who have neither watched the TV series nor read the book.

Alberto Iglesias' soothing reboot of the soundtrack from the TV series is one of the facets that I liked in the movie.

Gary Oldman hasn't outperformed Alec Guinness' performance as the cagey George Smiley but I'm sure no other actor in the present day would have come close to Gary Oldman's portrayal of Smiley, a performance that fetched him a long-awaited Academy award nomination.

A movie that deserves the rave reviews that it received.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Depends if you've seen the BBC serial

Author: llewelp from United Kingdom
17 September 2011

As someone who watched the original BBC adaptation in 1980 and admired it as one of the best BBC series ever made, watching this film was a disappointment. It suffers by comparison in almost every respect. At key scenes I kept thinking back to the BBC version: Smiley's interviews with Connie, beautifully played by Beryl Reid; the scenes with Jerry Westerby played by Joss Ackland; the introduction to the main characters as we see them enter the Circus meeting room for the first time - particularly Percy's elaborate pipe filling. In this version we have moved on three scenes in the time it takes Percy to tamp down his tobacco.

And that is one of the major problems with this film, the plot exposition is so compressed. It has been well done, but it was the slow unfolding of the 'beautiful knot' that was half the pleasure. The other half was the incomparable acting led by Guinness. Gary Oldman is a seriously good actor, but Guinness was a great actor and could convey with a gaze or a look the deep intelligence and melancholy at the heart of the character in a way that Oldman can't.

Even the recreation of the 1970's, though convincing , has to be strived for, whereas in 1979 it was just there for the BBC, ready to be used. The overall result left me ultimately feeling uninvolved. The film ended, the lights came up and that was that. OK but not as good as the book or the TV series. Now that's damning with faint praise.

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10 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Oldman is a master thespian in this top notch crafty spy vs. spy thriller bar-none

Author: ( from fairview, nj
10 January 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (2011) ***1/2 Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Simon McBurney, Mark Strong. Oldman delivers a masterful, crafty performance as career British spy George Smiley whose old-school smarts are enlisted to thrush out a mole amongst his conniving den of thieves colleagues while investigating the death of his mentor and the unraveling of a botched assignment with lethal ripples of espionage gone awry. Based on the international best seller by John la Carre, the tightly wound, knotty crackerjack screenplay adaptation by Peter Straughan and his late wife Bridget O'Connor serves up some classic turns of the screws, cloak-and-dagger genre chestnuts while keeping the audience lively (a few scattered moments of very real violence inflicted) thanks largely to Tomas Alfredson's taut direction, expert cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema (the drab palette of muted greys/blues/browns expertly show a Europe in the dark in its Cold War era) and impeccable production design by Maria Djkorvic with crisp editing by Dino Junsater. But it is hats off to the very lived-in, implosive, internally observant Oscar-worthy turn by veteran Oldman (with a nice tribute to previous role interpreter the late, great Sir Alec Guinness by employing the old master's plummy vocalizations and the owlish specs), whose very stillness only betrays the villainy at hand. Top Notch!

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11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

So disappointing

Author: decap008 from United Kingdom
11 February 2012

Tbf it's prolly around 5 ish, just annoyed as I bought this DVD as a present for my dad, we both love the books and the 70's show, but this film managed to drag, he gave up on it before it had finished.

Too much loud music and overly dramatic pauses. Too little charisma, hard to care or identify with any of the characters, and the gratuitous sex scene was embarrassing.

It was a bit like star wars 1, one intense disappointment yawn with a dodgy Alec guineas impression. Kept expecting a ja ja binks to pop up and yawn, me so bored now.

All the way through is film I kept thinking the TV series really was better than I had thought. Buy that instead this like, it's better.

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12 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

An impressive emotional labyrinth.

Author: Rockwell_Cronenberg from United States
6 January 2012

In the twisty, desolate world of espionage present in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, director Tomas Alfredson and a lush ensemble cast dive us into a world deceit and distrust during the Cold War era. The premise is simple; in the top ring of MI6 (known as The Circus) there is a Soviet mole. What follows this, however, is anything but simple. Characters weave in and out, giving us answers but leaving with potentially more questions. Often times there are films dealing with deceit that present characters who have a small grasp of what's going on but not much of an idea of the overall picture; rarely has there been a film that leaves the audience feeling the same.

It's this interesting tactic that I think sets Tinker apart in many ways. For every move that you understand there are one or two that are left mysterious; a motivation you're unsure of, a conversation that may not be everything it seems. I think Alfredson does a terrific job of, almost from the very moment the film begins, establishing a world so filled with double meanings that even the most casual conversation can lead the viewer to question if we're seeing what is really going on. There's so much below the surface that watching the film becomes as much of a puzzle as the one the characters are trying to figure out within it.

A lot of credit here goes to writers Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, who are surprisingly skilled at condensing a very dense novel into a two hour film. Every now and then you can feel the effect of maybe some characters not being as fleshed out as they should, but for every scene that we might not see on camera, the actors make up for with an insightful look into their souls. Eye-acting is something that I've always admired greatly and just about every member of this deep ensemble is working that skill to the level.

At the top of the hill is Gary Oldman as George Smiley, the recently retired agent who is tasked with the duty of cracking this labyrinthine code, and he absolutely shines. Oldman is a performer who has many times been praised high for his theatrical performances in films like Leon and Sid and Nancy where he bursts at the seams with emotion, but here he proves that he can do the opposite by keeping that wealth of feeling hidden beneath those big frames.

Through all of the twists and turns of the narrative that goes on here, I think that the film ultimately shines brightest as a character piece, strangely enough. In spite of having to condense the story at the risk of some character development, it still ends up being this heartbreaking study of the men who go into this line of work. Along with Oldman there is a wealthy ensemble of performances that hauntingly portray the pain and suffering that decades of lies and paranoia can eventually take on someone.

There's a scene where Smiley tells Benedict Cumberbatch's character about a time when he tried to turn a Soviet agent and in that scene Oldman displays the toll that this life has taken on him and it is devastating. He does it without shedding a tear or even pushing too hard on any syllable, but in those eyes and that voice you can feel the things that haunt him at night and it's powerful stuff. Of course the entire ensemble brings their A game here, with very notable performances from just about everyone.

Almost everyone gets their moment in the sun, except for Ciaran Hinds, and they all manage to impress. I just want to single out Colin Firth, who absolutely broke my heart in his final scenes, and Mark Strong, who after the past few years of playing the stoic bad guy finally got to dig into a part with more emotional layers to it and he really nailed it. These veteran actors all give us that sense of what this life can do to a man, and the roles played by Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy are just as important looks into the beginning of a path that will eventually lead them to the same location.

In that same scene with Oldman and Cumberbatch, he tells his young protégé that in this world you are constantly looking for the weakness in everyone else and the acting here shows us just that; everyone is putting up such a front, trying to remain cold and complacent, as to not allow anyone else to see any weakness for even a single second.

The puzzle leads to a rather conventional place in the narrative sense, but what it does on a deeper level I found to be extraordinary. We enter a world where the people in it don't even know what their motivation is half of the time. It's a new kind of espionage out there and some of these pieces just feel like they're playing a part. Some of the dialogue is so bold and eye-opening for this kind of film, a rare look into the actual hearts and souls (or lack thereof) of these people, rather than just an excuse for some slick action.

Of course the technical qualities of the film are aces across the board, from the very bleak and cold tone in which it's shot to the wonderfully impressive set designs, but for me it really came down to this painstaking study of these people. I find it interesting when people say that they were bored by the film, because with this tone and these wounded creatures I honestly wish I could have watched this play out all day long.

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25 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

A good film but not as good as the BBC's adaptation

Author: michaellaing71 from United Kingdom
16 September 2011

Going into watching this film, I had recently watched the BBC adaptation, which is a master piece of television. So when I review this film, it is in comparison with the BBC version from 1979.

Firstly I have to talk about the Mise en scène. The film is set in 1973 and everything is made to feel drab, desaturated and used, as if the 60s never happened. The feeling is that Britain is old, not the power that it once was, where bureaucracy is beginning to take over and everyone is feeling negative.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has a very strong cast and I think, mostly everyone does very well. Gary Oldman is one of my favourite actor and his portrayal of George Smiley is one of the most subtle and destingished performances I have seen from an actor, He is soft spoken, often letting his gestures and movements do the talking. Tom Hardy again shows that he is one of the best up and coming actors, dominates his scenes, with skill and vigour, that never goes over the top. It actually show the skill that Gary Oldman has that he doesn't feel the need to compete and it reinforces the gravitas that his character has.

Benedict Cumberbatch is good in his role, though I don't always feel that he has a toughness that his character should have. Kathy Burke handles a very hard role well, though she isn't in the film for long and her scene doesn't feel as important, as I feel it should. The role of Control is probably the most over the top and for me works the least well. Mark Strong gives a good performance but I would have liked to see slightly more of his character.

John Hurt tries very hard as a man running out of time but the character feels forced and doesn't quite work. I am not sure if this is down to the acting of just the way the character was originally written.

With the four members of the top of the circus, I have mixed views. The film starts to try and build the four of them up but then fails to keep the early momentum going. I think the acting is well done, though Toby Jones character isn't nearly as pompous as I would have liked and David Dencik just breaks down to easily towards the end. Ciarán Hinds is a very strong actor but he isn't given enough to do which does leave a problem. Colin Firth plays the most likable character in the entire film and does a good job, coming over as friendly and reliable.

I am not a fan of films where the cinematography is particularly noticeable and this is one of the more distracting things for me with the new version of the film. Hoyte Van Hoytema is a very talented director of photography and is quite amazing, for me Oscar worthy if you enjoy it. But I just found that the constant use of and changing of depth of field, especially in the first half of the film was too artsy. It didn't help much with the pacing of the film, which I will go onto in a while. The score by Alberto Iglesias is very underplayed but perfectly fits the tone of the film, never distracting and extremely subtle. There is also a very interesting moment in the film where is played which although from the 1930s works very well.

Tomas Alfredson is a good director and I suspect a very good actors director, bringing out some very good performances. I cannot give complete praise though. Scenes don't always seem to flow as well as I would have liked, in conjunction with the cinematography there is a lot of lingering around, where nothing his happening, which is meant to show a character contemplating but is just slow.

In the end though the biggest problem with the film is time, Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan have done a sterling job of trying to adapt John le Carré book, but I just don't feel that they can succeed in the time allowed for a film. There are just so many little things that the film has to either cut or condense, and some of the characters are never given the space that they need, to build up the tension that is needed for a 'who done it'.

The film is not bad, in fact it is good. It cannot compete with the BBC series though and how ever good Gary Oldman, he runs up against the classic performance Alec Guinness gave in the role. If you have not seen the BBC series, I would suggest watching the film first and then watching the TV series because it is the definitive version of the story and also leads to Smiley's People which for me is even better.

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28 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

Tinker Tailor Who Cares?

Author: dkdkavanagh from Ireland
6 January 2012

I've just finished watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and so disappointed was I that I had to come on and log my first review. OVER RATED & DULL!!!Pure And simple. I've never read the book or watched the TV series but the combination of the ads, reviews and impeccable cast made this a movie I have been excited to see for months! How bitterly disappointed I am now after 2 hours of absolutely nothing-you can literally tell who the spy is in the first few mins nothing about this plot was a shock or a surprise. you have it all figured out yourself within the first hour-literally. It was the singularly most boring experience I have had watching a movie. Words cannot express how disappointed I was by this-particularly as I'm such an enormous fan of Gary Oldman even he couldn't save this movie and I hate to say it but his performance was flat and monotonous. if the IMDb rating system had zero out of 10 it's what I would have given it. Save your 2 hours for something more incredible or you'll seriously regret wasting them watching this movie!

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31 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Honestly? I didn't get it...

Author: belzebuebchen ( from Berlin
28 November 2011

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is a well shot film with great actors and beautiful art direction. But a story one can follow it has not.

I don't consider myself the slow Joe in the last row, nor is my Girlfriend is that slow Jane but honestly each of us got maybe 25% of the story, half the film made sense when we discussed it later.

Maybe one must read the book first because the approx. 400 pages didn't seem to fit in the 127 minutes of film. There's lots of off-text but that's no real help if the basic motivations are told in hints, half sentences or metaphors. That's not how storytelling works in film.

It's a shame because I really loved Alfredson's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN which is a quiet film where a lot is said between the actual lines. For a cold war spy thriller tough that is not the right way to tell a story.

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