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|Index||535 reviews in total|
I have the audio and video versions of the Alec Guinness portrayal of
George Smiley and enjoyed both. So I was intrigued as to how a new
production, complete with new actors would supplant my ingrained vision
of Control, George, Bill, Toby, Roy, Peter, Connie, Riki, Mendel etc. I
have to say you need a blank sheet when watching this version as the
whole thing has been re written for the cinema so comparisons will be
The writing and acting cannot be faulted, how can it with such an august cast. Oldman, like Guinness, portrays Smiley as a studied man and therefore the film is just as you would expect of a spy film, as has been mentioned in other reviews, a slow burner. There are different angles explored but one thing I didn't like and it goes for all films that I watch, and that is the use of flashbacks, which, unfortunately for me, this film uses.
The story is the same, its the way its portrayed that is different and now we may be able to look forward to a re-make of Smiley's People in the future.
I was hooked on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy from my first viewing of the
trailer. Everything about it, from the gritty film print to the
unmistakable voice of John Hurt down the pulsating background music,
was exhilarating. Oh, and then there's Gary Oldman. No actor draws me
in quite like Oldman and Oldman in a rare starring role is even more
appealing. I looked forward to TTSS more than any other film of 2011
(outside of Harry Potter) and built it up so much in my mind that there
was no way it could ever live up to my expectations. Or so I thought.
In the midst of the Cold War, the head of MI6, Control (John Hurt), becomes aware of a mole within his organization. The operation to unearth the spy goes terribly wrong, however, and Control is forced to resign along with George Smiley (Oldman), a member of "The Circus" (MI6's inner circle) and Control's man through and through. A year later, Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy), a field agent who was previously under Control's authority, comes out of hiding and brings with him the renewed belief that one of the members of The Circus is indeed a traitor. With nowhere else to turn, Smiley is brought on board to investigate the claims and root out the mole. As he delves into the work of The Circus and a particular operation known as Witchcraft, Smiley finds himself caught up in an increasingly complex web of lies and cover-ups that threaten to bring the world to the brink of yet another war.
TTSS is the anti-Bourne, the anti-Bauer, and certainly the anti-Bond. I thoroughly enjoy those characters and their respective franchises but this is an entirely different sort of spy film. You could almost believe that TTSS is based on a true story. It is a real espionage thriller and one that stands up against the best of the genre. This is the definition of a slow burn with a narrative that moves at a snail's pace. But that isn't to say that it is boring or that it lacks in drama. While there are no fiery explosions, no nuclear threats, and very few shootings, it is still taut and riveting, the type of film that has you on the edge of your seat without you even realizing it. TTSS builds its tension through its masterful storytelling that mixes in timely flashbacks while constantly moving the narrative forward. This is a layered, deep, and complicated film but director Tomas Alfredson and his team of writers never make a misstep or allow the film to become overly convoluted. This is a thinking man's spy thriller, a film for adults, but it isn't so complex that you can't follow along, a fact that I truly appreciate. Every scene and every line of dialogue is carefully crafted and nothing goes to waste, the mark of a great film. In essence, this is really about as good as it gets from a storytelling standpoint.
For all the good of the story, however, TTSS would fail without a killer cast. Fortunately, Alfredson assembled an impeccable and diverse group of actors who fit their characters beautifully. You know what you're getting from reliable veterans like Oldman, Hurt, and Firth (I'm not sure when exactly Firth went from a ho-hum likable guy in romantic comedies to a tour de force in meaningful films like this but I dig the change) but Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch provide a bit of youthful exuberance to balance out the reserved nature of the older stars. Cumberbatch in particular is a spectacular addition. His character, Peter Guillam, is sort of the audience's representative, as his sense of wide-eyed bewilderment at the grimy reality of espionage adds yet another element to the mix at work within TTSS. Every member of the cast comes through with flying colors, each delivering a powerful performance.
But at the end of the day, this is Oldman's show and he makes the absolute most of it. Smiley basically doesn't speak for the first 20 minutes of the film and even after that his words are limited, calculated. And yet the entire time, Oldman commands attention. He is quietly calm in all situations and gives the impression that you had better listen closely to everything he says. So much information is conveyed without words and so much of the film's success depends on Smiley's ability to create a real presence. Even when he doesn't have the answer to the riddle set before him, Smiley displays a keen understanding of the world he is working within and for me, that sense of, "this guy knows what he's doing" only adds to Oldman's on-screen power. It's not just that Smiley knows what needs to be done; it's that he knows what the cost will be to get it done. This is an incredibly challenging and understated role and one that I think a number of very talented actors would struggle with. Instead, Oldman revels in the difficulty, giving a flawless performance. Deliberating over Oldman's best role is like picking which of Michael Jordan's six championships is his best (it's the third one, by the way) but Oldman's work in TTSS should be held up as a work of art, a masterful portrayal that should not be overlooked in February.
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Filmed at the time when Oldman ceased to be a box office draw, this
film makes an attempt to capture that former glory. All it captures is
silliness and pretension. Oldman seems restrained, almost lost, in the
trifle he is asked to play here. Kathy Burke has her shrill moments but
there are times, especially by the fire, when she is especially lovely.
Mark Strong has nothing much to do, though she does it fine enough.
Péter Kálloy Molnár as the main Hungarian Waiter is especially wooden.
John Hurt does come off the best, playing a total creep, as The
Bollywood Insider puts it.
We never get a sense of the the espionage that would have made more apparent the strain Oldboy was under. We never see his reactions, most likely because the producers would have thought it would have made him seem like too much of a heel.
The philosophy in this movie is heavy-handed and especially disappointing since two famous writers wrote the screenplay.
Another absurdity is that Oldman lives in what is described as a shack. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn't trade their house for that shack in a split second. Also, for a starving government employee, how does he afford it? Movie logic, that's how.
There are two reasons to see it, though. One is the aerial photography of gloomy industrial districts. Truly phenomenal. The other is the truly lovely score by Aziz Mandel, which has haunted me for about the last 20 minutes.
Really, watch the first five minutes and the end credit sequence and you'll have seen everything worthy this movie has to offer. And let's be honest, Gary Oldman as Smiley, the wily, worldly-wise, and world-weary cuckold, is a badly thought-out casting decision, to say the least.
Those more accustomed to a 'modern' spy thriller may be overwhelmed by
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which is a slow pace, well acted spy drama,
full of interconnected sub-plots, over a dozen characters, and a mere
one or two action sequences (all low key, realistic affairs). Thus,
modern spy fans may well be disappointed; overwhelmed with the
chronology defying story and bored with the film's snail's pace. But of
course, this does not make Tinker, Tailor a bad film, but rather
something very different from what modern audiences are used to.
Tinker tailor is a strange kind of film; marketed as a thriller, it is in fact a story driven drama which keeps espionage and spying to such a minimum that at times one would struggle to even call it a spy film. James bond it is not; it is far darker and infinitely more realistic. Yet equally it is also in no way similar to the Bourne franchise, Bond's darker brother. In fact, Tinker Tailor has more in come with a character driven drama than any modern spy film.
I entered the film with no prior knowledge of the film or it's source material (or previous adaptations for that matter), other than its basic plot line; that is, a retired spy (Oldman, on top form) is brought back into British Intelligence (Circus) to investigate the existence of a mole working for the Russians. This simple premise is quickly elaborated on, and I found that, with my lack of knowledge of the source material, combined with the films casual and frequent use of the flashback without warning, that I quickly lost track of the plot. Characters are brought in, disguised as main characters, and then never seen from again until much later in the film. Names are thrown around but as the audience is not that familiar with them it is easy to lose track of who is who, and perhaps worst of all, the huge ensemble cast means that each character (even , criminally, Oldman) is given little screen time and thus almost all our underdeveloped. I would have preferred the film to have been a bit longer, to allow all the characters to fully develop. This character development is never fully achieved, and so by the end of the film, it is hard for the viewer to even care about whom the mole is, and thus the final reveal is a real let down, with no tension or shock accompanying it
Fortunately, the film is about more than just the final reveal of who the mole is; the journey is equally important, and at times, this journey is incredibly exciting. Standout scenes include Cumberbatch's (again, underused, considering his ability) sneaky attempt at retrieving a file from Circus (one of the films few tense scenes), and the brilliant ending scene with the juxtaposed soundtrack. In fact, it is a shame that the film didn't have a few more scenes like the final one, which had a real scenes of fun and style, despite the violent and serious events portrayed .
Moreover, anyone going to see the film with even a slight interest in cinema, will instantly realise the cast is a magnificent one; in fact it was really the cast that drew me to the film in the first place. Oldman is terrific, and it is good to see him in a meaty starring role again. In addition, there is an abundance of well known names including Colin Firth and John Hurt, and some relative newcomers; specifically Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. All play their roles to perfection; it is hard to think of even a single weak link.
Thus, the film in theory should be a good one; a great cast, combined with some excellent scenes, and an intriguing plot that demands multiple viewing. However, in practice, the overall package is a real let down. As previously mentioned, the film is very hard to follow for someone who has no prior knowledge of the source material. The complex plot is not helped by multiple flashbacks, and a huge cast of characters. I found it exhausting to keep track of the plot, and judging from the audience response in my screening (a handful of people walked out), I am not alone in thinking this. Thus, on first viewing, for a person in my position, this film is very much a disappointing one. The film is not quite what one would call a 'mess', but it is certainly all over the place.
But, that does not mean it should not be seen; the complexity of the plot demands multiple viewings, and I can imagine it would be incredibly rewarding to watch the film over and over again, slowly piecing it together. Therefore, I would recommend that people in my position give the film a miss in the cinema, and instead get it as soon as possible on DVD; watch it once, then immediately watch it again.
However, this will not affect everyone. I want to reassure all fans of the source material who have not seen the film, that they will more than likely enjoy this film, which I understand is a faithful adaptation. A fan will have no trouble following the film, and thus will be able to overcome my main problem with it.
In summary, it is hard to recommend someone with no knowledge of the plot go and watch this film in the cinema; they will more than likely be, at the very least, slightly overwhelmed. However, I have no fears about recommending this film to those already comfortable with the plot; do not let my slightly sow review score put you off; this is merely my opinion (an outsiders opinion). It is more than likely that overtime, with repeat viewings, this film with gain a star or two, but, for now, I must give it only an above average rating of six stars.
My impression, while trying to stay awake during the first part, was of a failed experiment: let's vampirize the cold war movie genre (good intention) and take anything vital out of it. Which might have been interesting if the vampirization had given life to something else. Unfortunately this does not happen. The film is excruciatingly lost in details, and it's even more painful because of the beautiful cinematography, which feels wasted on this effort. It's like a heavy coat of lead covering... well, not much. The actors seem disconnected from the environment and from each other (not only the characters, which would make sense considering the context, but the actors themselves, they seem to be in a vacuum). I found impossible to connect emotionally with any of them, which makes sense as they're all quite dispirited, but the problem is that none of them actually develops into a proper character. The non-linear time-line doesn't really feel justified, it's just confusing, over a plot that (Le Carré) is already quite convoluted. The only things that kept me from falling asleep were the photography, cinematography and editing, which are definitively captivating. But it's a case of style over substance. I might have as well stayed at home to watch my espresso machine.
Just a quick review as I really do not want to spend any more time wasted on this movie. I was really looking forward to seeing it with such a great cast and glowing reviews everywhere I looked. I was very surprised at how nothing seemed to happen and the twists were just so predictable. I have to agree with people who slated it on IMDb as very boring, I couldn't agree more. I couldn't have cared less about the characters who were brilliantly acted but that doesn't save this film at all. It just bumbled from one dull scene to the next and I gave up waiting for anything of interest to happen within 45 minutes of the movie. A few people had the courage to get up and leave and I wish I had been one of them.
I had high expectations for this film.
A fine cast, great story and more. However, I have to admit the film did nothing at all for me and it took me three attempts to sit through it. I finally managed to watch the entire film the other day. And boy was I ready to see the credits roll! The music score in my opinion added to my misery, the acting was very staid and cold. It wasn't "stiff upper lip" British, it was bored actors trying to be even more boring. I gave the film 1 star. Watch the film if you like confusion, flash backs, grey atmosphere, no tension or need to fall asleep. And if you like the film then fine, if you don't then I told you so! Within ten minutes you will know if you will watch the rest.
This is a film for watching closely. It's not one where you can miss a
couple of minutes putting the kettle on, and it's not one for those
times when you just want entertaining without having to think. I
sympathise with people who got lost in it all, I too had plenty of
issues with it after the first time of watching before realising I
hadn't done the film or myself justice, so I watched it again. I then
discovered it to be a very clever piece of work, and if you take the
time to watch it closely and not let your concentration wander, it
becomes thoroughly absorbing and all the pieces fit together
The cast is impressive and the performances given are memorable. This is a spy film that one could believe. I am no Bond fan, I like my entertainment to be credible, true to life, slow for much of the time, and with little false glitter.
If you give the film the credit it deserves by clearing your head of extraneous matters and giving it your undivided attention, you will be handsomely rewarded.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watching the DVD put me asleep in 20 minutes. Thankfully the IMDb
reviews tipped me that the movie is incomprehensible without reading
the book and watching the 1979 mini-series 4 or 5 times. Its a spy
thriller that you can only appreciate if you already know the ending.
Read the Wikipedia plot summary. And blog posts,(tinker-tailor-a-guide-for-the-perplexed/). Be sure to turn on closed captioning. They will put the name of the speaker in parentheses on occasion so you can figure out who the heck is talking.
Every time I read a spoiler I was amazed at how how sloppily the film was put together. No, I did not notice the sign for Bidabesto n the subway wall since there were a couple walking down the stares and the gal had a big floppy afro and that got me thinking how she got cast and if hair like that is hard to care for and how it looked silly flopping as she descended the stairs.
Just like there were always some Indians that lived near the fort, there are always some fan-boys that think its great you have to have read the books and watch the 1979 miniseries. Heck, even the director notes you should listen to his commentary in order to understand what is going on. His tone told me there were recording the commentary after the theatrical release where everyone was staggering out the theater asking "WTF just happened, I want my money back." Listen to Milos Forman commentary at the beginning of Amadeus, where he beats himself up worrying that audience will not understand who the guy running across the courtyard is. Read about Hitchcock arguing with Carry Grant, who did not "feel" his character would look across the street when he exited a building. Hitchcock exploded, "Its because I want the audience to understand what building is across the street!" A director's first duty is to clarity, not the narcissism of the actors or the autism of the writer. He serves the viewer, rather than condescend to us that we are so stupid we cannot understand his masterpiece.
The Wikipeda plot summary shows you this really is a simple plot. There is not a lot of stuff going on, once you take out the self-indulgent peacocking of having to watch files being lifted in a little dumbwaiter. There are two activating events, a botched defection in Budapest and a blown cover in gosh knows what city where a some British dolts get killed and a Russian traitor girl gets kidnapped. Needless to say, these don't come at the beginning of the movie since that would make sense. There are handfuls of flashbacks, but you can tease out the change-- when Oldman is staring into space one minute, and then he is somewhere else the next second, well Elmer, that thar is a flashback. The thing is there is so little context for any scene transitions, you get lost and everything is a blur.
That lack of context is telling. See, I am sure le Carré is autistic. He pretty much admits it, talking about his social awkwardness in the featurette. Having worked in tech for decades, and being pretty far up the spectrum myself, I can see how le Carré loves to dive into details, but stitching things together-- not so much. The books offer up a flood of semi-relevant details, so that critics read their own deep profound interpretations. Another Asperger feature is the lack of context. People like le Carré and myself just assume you know every single thing we know, and that you have had the exact same life experiences, and that like Ayne Rand, if you don't like Strauss and tap dancing, you are a worthless idiot.
Autism is fine for a novel. le Carré just churned out a torrent of words. You can flip back and forth in the books. He eventually reached coverage and connected the details together. I am sure his editor did yeoman's work trying to get a comprehensible story written down.
Now we come to this movie, and rather than feel sorry for a fellow Aspergiac like le Carré, I have to feel the director is just f*&ing with my head, like Thurman Murman was doing to Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa. I remember way into the movie thinking "Who the heck is Alleline?" And then a quick trip to the IMDb listing and I realize, "Oh, they mean Percy." Introducing people by first name and then switching to surname is a stupidity that they do in the series Vera, and all the more reason to have your 12-year-old daughter writing down the characters and plot points on a 8' x 12' white board you have rolled up next to your recliner. Maybe force her to read the book too-- "No daddy, its so booooooring!"
OK, too many details and no context, and a director who might be a narcissist sociopath since he like making moves only the chosen few can understand. Why he is so special, you should welcome spending 90 dollars to see the movie 9 times. But adding to this is the implausibility of the plot, and how Oldman catches the bad guy. None of this rings true, and looks like the fever dream of a clerk typist in MI6 that dreams of what real spies must be doing.
On top of that is the dreariness. It looks like they were shooting in Pompey after the pyroclastic ash cloud. Everything gray and dirty and depressing. When I watched the commentary track, I had a Mrs Fisher Murder Mystery episode playing without sound on the second TV. Quite the contrast. This film was just ugly, everything about it, plot, characterization, cinematography, is ugly. Glad I got the DVD for free from the library. And do get the DVD or unlimited streaming, you will need a few watches if you have not read the book.
So many good reviews that all seem to be written by people familiar with a certain BBC series and or book, both of which I have never heard of. Coming to this movie with no back round information on it makes difficult to follow and understand. There is a constant flow of short clips that are disjointed and just don't add, fit or carry along the story or plot. Granted they do create an appealing "tone" and tension but it's more like looking at a collage and getting a feeling than watching a well crafted story. I had to use my imagination to create a story line that made any sort of sense at all. It's difficult to watch but all the actors are so good that it's compelling in a weird way.
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