52 Movies: Week 18
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an adaptation of John LeCarre’s 1974 novel about the hunt for a Soviet mole embedded in the highest rank’s of Britain’s MI-6. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, is best known for Let The Right One In, the original film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire novel of the same name. Let The Right One In was notable for being a patient character study masquerading as a genre film, and for being an impeccable period piece, capturing the look and feel of 80’s Norway with apparent verisimilitude. These strengths are again on display in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
John LeCarre actually spent time in British intelligence prior to becoming a a writer and was, himself, betrayed by a Russian mole. His novels bear no resemblance to Robert Ludlum’s terrible Bourne books. LeCarre’s stories are nuanced character studies, well grounded in a place and time that he knows well. Alfredson was, accordingly, the perfect director to adapt his work and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is as exceptional as Let The Right One In.
Gary Oldman received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of George Smiley, the intelligence agent who is surreptitiously brought out of forced retirement to hunt down the mole. Smiley is a taciturn character and Oldman’s performance is one of those masterpieces of minimalism, not unlike Billy Bob Thorton’s work in The Man Who Wasn’t There. There is a real art to being able to convey great depth with such a quiet performance and it’s always thrilling to see an actor pull it off. These sorts of performances do not insult the audience by spelling everything out and, indeed, the movie as a whole shares some of these characteristics. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a measured movie and the complex plot developments are rarely spelled out. This is, accordingly, not a movie for everyone. This is a spy movie of the cloak and dagger variety, not the action adventure type.
That caveat aside, the entire cast turns in incredible performances, (with Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy being particularly noteworthy), and I personally loved this movie. Four stars out of five. Next week I will try to see Captain America so I may (finally) have a less than glowing review! There are so many good movies lined up in my Netflix queue, however, that it’s hard to avoid picking things I suspect I’m really going to like each week.