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Sucked!! Plain and simple. It may have changed as the movie went on,
but to be honest, I couldn't even force myself to finish this complete
yawner. Slow and boring.
I think I watched maybe an hour of it before it drove me nuts with it's pure suckage. James Bond or Jason Bourne it is NOT! So if that's what you're looking for in a movie, be warned.
Okay, so I'm supposed to write more lines about how this movie was so incredibly boring. Hmmm, well the dialog was quiet and not very interesting. It was pretty depressing if I remember correctly. Well, hope this is enough to get this to work this time.
The only people that will applaud this movie is: movie critics of the all too common variety that thinks that the more boring, meaningless and artyfarty a movie is, the better it is, and fans of the book and/or original screening. Anyone else that does, should seek professional help. Because this is a movie that goes on and on without anything interesting or exiting ever happening. To call this a thriller, is like calling watching a tortoise move having a front row seat to a fast-paced race to the death. Only in the last scene something exiting nearly happens, but the director elects not to show it to us. He must have thought that after over two hours of interminable boredom, the shock of something actually happening would be too much for some and might cause heart attacks. Sometimes the editors make halfhearted attempts to liven things up - by resorting to completely unannounced and utterly confusing jumps in time and space. Gary Oldmans excellent acting skills goes completely to waste, and could easily be replaced by Sylvester Stallone and his infamous lack of emotions. This movie is SO bad, that I initially believed it to be made by Norwegian State TV (NRK).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My wife and I saw this on DVD. We enjoyed it, the whole movie is
interesting and filled with established actors in most roles. But when
it was over we wondered if we were the only two who had a hard time
So I first went to old reliable (for me), the critic Ebert. He wrote almost exactly what we had been thinking, he couldn't follow it either, even though he has made a career of following sometimes complex movies and making sense of them.
So next I read a number of user reviews here, as well as many of the discussion items, and guess what? The most common theme is how difficult it is to follow all the characters and to understand what was going on. So I give this movie a favorable rating, I enjoyed it very much, but frankly it is very hard to follow. And when it was all over, I knew who the spy was, but I can't really say what all I saw in the movie.
Gary Oldman plays what turns out to be the central character, George Smiley . There had been an incident, Smiley was fired from the British secret agency, but now the old chairman of the group has approached him. They strongly suspect that there is a mole, a traitor in the organization and that it is one of the top five members. Smiley is asked to come back to investigate and figure it all out. Which he eventually does.
The movie's title comes from a code system used during the investigation and required communications. Each man being investigated was given a code name ... Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, etc ... and one of them would turn out to be the spy! Some action, but mostly quiet and often incomplete conversations which ended in vague, indirect references or implications. Enjoyable movie but very hard to follow. Maybe I already said that?
The Cold War in London 1973. Can any environment be more depressing,
ugly and have worse lunch restaurants? Hardly.
Thomas Alfredson takes the challenge, the slow tempo and the complicated intrigue and lets this be John Le Carré. People say that this novel by his is the best espionage thriller ever and it is of course as far from James Bond as possible.
But it is Gary Oldman's film. His way of eating candy or correcting his glasses is art on its highest level, anyway being among a bunch of brilliant British actors. But you really have to stay awake. Otherwise you're soon lost in the most confusing plot you've ever seen.
Gary Olman was atrocious as Smiley. In particular his face was
permanently devoid of expression. He was like a ventriloquist's dummy,
except he lacked a dummy's range of emotions.
The only interesting scenes involved the bitchy top spies upstairs, too intent on stabbing each other in the back to mind the shop.
And nothing happened. Looong periods where there's so little action that the lights would have gone out had the switch been tied to a motion detector.
The storytelling was hopelessly opaque.
The miniseries was infinitely better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm giving this production some bonus points for the elegant
photography, composition, acting, and the use of sound. Oh, and for
being a movie that should be X rated because in all these respects it's
a movie made for adults rather than ten-year olds. There's very little
violence. Nobody's head is removed with a hedge trimmer. There are a
few shootings but never once do we see the shooter and victim in the
same frame. The camera doesn't wobble as if held by a drunk and the
pallet, though muted, is not drawn from the cadaverous green area.
The story is basically simple. The never-smiling, extremely cool, Gary Oldman is George Smiley, part of some high-up British intelligence agency. It's 1973 and there is a Moscow Mule somewhere in the department. Smiley and one or two help mates finally dig him out. The biggest rat of all gets away -- I think.
However, the screenplay meanders all over the place, with mostly passionless subplots that turn the film into a Cretan labyrinth with no Minotaur, just the labyrinth. You need patience to get through this; and a mature sensibility, not one attuned to instant and complete gratification.
The two most tragic scenes.
(1) Tom Hardy is a young British spy in Budapest who falls for the young woman he's squeezing secret information out of. Hardy himself is handsome, I suppose. He looks like Kevin Costner with Marlon Brando lips. But his girl friend, Svetlana Khodchenkova, is an absolute knockout with her blue tartar eyes. I wish the USSR had collapsed earlier than it did so we could have gotten to know her better, although, come to think of it, she was only seven or eight when the implosion took place. Anyway, she winds up with a bullet through her head. That's tragic.
(2) One of the subplots involves an ex British spy, tortured by the Reds, now a stern teacher in a boy's boarding school. At first arid and unforgiving in class, he forms a friendship with a chubby little kid who is an outsider at the school too. But the teacher is drawn back into "the circus" and towards the end, when the plain little social isolate tries to give him a present, the teacher curses and shoos him away, knowing that his peaceful, pastoral existence must come to an end. All of us murderers who work for the state must know how the school teacher feels.
The cast is fine. I was happy to see the craggy face of John Hurt as "Control." He gave me such splendid support in the classic "From The Hip." I liked him too because he was shorter than I. The rest of the cast is equally good.
Except for what I take to be the Etonian haircut, Benedict Cumberbatch as Smiley's reliable, homosexual assistant, reminds me of Kenneth Williams from the "Carry On" series. Incidentally, the brief scene in which Cumberbatch's homosexuality is revealed, there is only one line of dialog that trips the viewer to what's happening: "If there's someone else --" Otherwise, as so often elsewhere, you might not know what the hell is going on.
The film is based on the 1974 British spy novel by John le Carré, and
is a condensed version of the 1979 seven-part BBC series of the same
The film's largest flaw is that it fails to inspire the requisite emotional investment needed to care about the characters. It's hard to fit this sort of investment into a two-hour film considering the complexity of the plot. However, with this disconnect from the characters it becomes nearly impossible to care when someone is killed off. It also doesn't help that the film's low suspense level is like heating up a pot of water that never makes it to a full boil.
The stage is set for a great espionage spy movie including a fantastic cast, but it just fails to leave any kind of lasting impact. This is far from your Jason Bourne hollywoodized type of spy films, and favorably takes a realistic approach. However, this red-herring story needs to up the ante by increasing the tension giving the viewer the sensation of suspenseful anxiety mixed with paranoia.
This has to be one of the most overrated films of 2011.
Let's start with the very simple premise that all filmmakers know, one
page of script is roughly equal to one minute of film time. I did not
read the novel nor see the TV series, but I am told the novel is 400
pages. Taking that into account the film must cut corners and cut
corners they did. The movie was filmed with an absolute cloak of
heaviness and shot well, but I did not see any groundbreaking
techniques. What did come across was a heavy dose of despair. They
managed to fit all the complexities of this masterful spy plot, but
they left ALL character connections DOA. Gary Oldman does his best to
convey the character and demeanor of a person that would occupy that
station. That is simply not enough.
It was well acted for what was written. Well shot for where and when it took place. But it simply made no connection whatsoever to the characters and the audience. If you read the book your mind will most likely fill the gaps automatically, but for the rest of us it simply was devoid of interest. This was way more "The Good Sheperd" than "No Way Out". I love a good slow character driven movie. This movie was slow and with no character development. It will no doubt win many awards and be a favorite, but mostly from accolades it did not earn.
I have seen the TV series of this novel made in 1979 three times and the performance by Alec Guinness as George Smiley was one of the great milestones in the history of television drama. Compared to him, in this sad and failed new film version, the performance as Smiley by Gary Oldman is utterly pathetic. Oldman is so wooden he should really be growing in Kew Gardens. On the rare occasions when he moves or tries to show some expression, it is like watching the twitching of a corpse in its coffin, having been given a slight shock by a portable battery. The only decent performances in the film are by John Hurt and Colin Firth, who simply do not know how to be bad, no matter how hard the director attempts to make them so. Mark Strong as Prideaux does well. Everyone else is lost in a wilderness of incompetent direction. The screenplay is so bad that it could enter the list of Worst Film Scripts of All Time. The film is rambling, incoherent, incomprehensible, mumbled, vague, affected, pompous, stupid, and an offence to the viewer's intelligence. It is as if Donald Duck had been asked to film Shakespeare, so comical is it as a pastiche of a spy film. Was it the intention of Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner to make a comedy on the sly? Is that their game? If so, why was Dawn French not cast as Smiley so we could have some real laughs? Now, that would have been worth it. This film is what my late friend John Trevilian would have called 'wrist-slashingly depressing' (which was one of his salubrious phrases). Of course, what does ooze from this misbegotten film, as it does from any John le Carré story, is the omni-presence of treachery in Britain. Britain over the past century has produced traitors in the way that a stagnant pond breeds mosquitoes. There must have been at least 150 major Soviet agents working for the British Government between 1930 and 1990, most of them in the Foreign Office, though always some in the Home Office. In the TV series, the 'finger code' was prominent, for identifying the mole. This was probably based upon the 'toe code' which appears really to have been used by MI6. When Kim Philby reached the Soviet Union he sent a cryptic message back to England by an individual whom he trusted saying that 'the middle toes of both my feet were black'. I always took this to mean that he was not a genuine defector but a 'plant' sent to find out who the mole was, but from his message it appears that there were two. The film omits the finger code altogether. The only famous traitor I ever met was Sir Anthony Blunt. I spent an uncomfortable hour discussing an art matter with him in his grand office at Portman Square when he was Director of the Courtauld Institute. At that time no one would have dreamt that such a man could be a spy. The instant I set eyes upon him I sensed that I was in the presence of a dangerous killer-reptile. I have never hated anyone so violently at first sight, and he seemed to feel the same way about me. It was as if we had known each other in a former life and hated each other before. He was one of the most arrogant, supercilious, snobbish individuals I ever encountered, and utterly loathsome. He covered himself in a vestment of unctuous politeness which oozed vanity and contempt. The atmosphere in the room congealed into a solid state of mutual hatred. We somehow made it through our meeting, despite the fact that to judge from our eyes, what we really wanted to do was lunge at each other's throats and attempt to kill one another. Fortunately, I have never had this happen with anyone else, as it was most disturbing. The hatred was so intense and so instantaneous between us that I am at a loss to give any normal or rational explanation. Many years later, when he was unmasked, I was at last able to say to myself that he was genuinely a villain, and I had not been imagining it. Security chiefs can also be odd. Long before anyone had ever heard of her, or could conceivably have imagined that she was a spook, I sat beside Stella Rimington at dinner, and she did her best to appear an ordinary person. She was tense, brittle, sharp as a whip, totally on the ball, and intermittently prickly. Strange how little innocent Stella at a harmless dinner party steered the subject of conversation onto what I thought of Soviet penetration of the Foreign Office. Such an innocent, in a simple frock! I once saw Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller interviewed on the television news. I thought she came across as an idiot. Let's hope it was just bad 'presentational skills' and not congenital idiocy. Perhaps this all goes to show that security bosses slightly resemble human beings, in that they too can range from the brilliant to the terminally foolish (with all the disastrous consequences that the latter implies). Surely the worst security boss the West has ever known was Allen Dulles, and that was not because he was a fool, but for the opposite reason, that he was too clever, and thought controlling the CIA was not good enough for him, so why not the world instead. The depiction of security bosses in this pathetic film may indeed be its one merit, for if this serves to inform the public that some of the weirdest people in the world are in charge of all our destinies, and that many of them appear to have been dragged foaming at the mouth from an insane asylum in order to preside over assassinations, 'the war of terror', renditions, torture, and the humiliation of airline passengers, then congratulations!
From the director of the amazing LET THE RIGHT ONE IN comes a movie with the same economy of image, but certainly not of narrative. Cinematographer, and general genius, Hoyte Van Hoytema turns in a vision of an era that seems almost entirely reliant on muted colors and a constant interior asbestos haze, which feels a little lazy, though the use of a lot of long lenses does successfully give the viewer the sense that they're spying on the whole endeavor from afar. The art and set decoration is amazing, with London at the end of its post-war weariness coming off looking particularly nice. All the actors are excellent except for Gary Oldman who manages somehow to overact even when playing the contained and muted George Smiley. The reveal at the end has all the bite of an old toothless dog and is arrived at in such a by-the-numbers fashion that it seems like a chore that needs to be gotten out of the way. The thing is that Le Carré's work may be this dense and even "plodding", but it's never this cold or unengaging. In suppressing and condensing everything the film makers have done him a disservice. All and all I'm a huge fan of real world spy thrillers and a student of the Cold War, and this is, of course a fictional retelling of the Cambridge Five traitors incident, so there's a lot here for people like me to enjoy and I do recommend it for that reason. The quiet reality of the Cold War is so rarely depicted in film and I'm always excited when someone tries. But when it's all said and done, I prefer the BBC mini-series staring Alec Guinness by a long shot, it simply seems to have more life in its bones.
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