Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
This is an old film now, so this review is rather superfluous. However, I have only just had the chance to watch it properly, and some of you who have never seen it may be interested. Hence no spoilers. Based on the well-known book by John Le Carre, this is a film about the British Secret Service, and is set in the 1970s, when the ‘Cold War’ was at its height as far as espionage was concerned. I already knew the story, as I had not only read the book, but had also seen the superb 1979 TV adaptation, starring Alec Guinness. I wondered how the film could match that, and tell the story in just over two hours.
Much of the film is set in and around London, in the offices of the inner circle of British spymasters, known as ‘The Circus’. Action does transfer to Istanbul and Budapest, and also includes flashbacks to the earlier days of The Circus, following WW2. It is best to watch this film wide-awake, with all your faculties fully operational. The double-dealings, traitorous activities, and claustrophobic meetings in dingy offices and safe houses are peopled by an array of some of Britain’s finest character actors, with the plot becoming ever more intertwined as the film continues. The main character is George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman. Once influential, he has been forced into early retirement by the new head of The Circus, and the lackeys that surround him.
But when the government suspects that there is a ‘mole’ at the highest level, Smiley is brought back, and tasked with discovering who the traitor could be. Cue a detailed investigation, and a reappraisal of past lives and events, as Smiley doggedly sets about his task, aided by the supposedly effete Guillam, (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the former field operative, Ricky Tarr. (Tom Hardy) They are joined by a retired Special Branch officer, Mendel. Suspects abound, and there are many twists and turns, alongside some genuinely suspenseful moments, until Smiley gets his man.
This film is just wonderful, for so many reasons. There is little action, not a car chase in sight, and nobody is even that attractive to look at. But it just shouts authenticity in every scene, and the period detail can only be described as flawless. I was hooked from the start, and sat riveted for the full two hours plus. The casting is also a delight to behold. Nobody wasted, nobody overused or underused, and every small cameo not only perfectly done, but integral to the story. As well as Oldman, Hardy, and Cumberbatch, we get Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Cathy Burke, John Hurt, and many more. There was not a single actor in this film that I didn’t like, or respect. The script was tight, the direction near-perfect, and it was everything a realistic spy film should be.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it. This is quality indeed. Here’s a trailer.