Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writers: Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan
Stars: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberpatch, John Hurt
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a film based on a John le Carre novel of the same name. Instead of starting my review with my own synopsis I will present the description from Amazon. I do this not out of laziness, but out of the belief that you would need at least a Master’s in English Composition to successfully summarize the plot in one or two paragraphs. That being said, here you go: “The man he knew as ‘Control’ (John Hurt) is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley (Gary Oldman) isn’t quite ready for retirement-especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla-his Moscow Centre nemesis-and sets a trap to catch the traitor.” The story is set in the 70s during the Cold War and involves the British and Soviet Intelligence Agencies.
The film is impossibly slow and obtuse. A cold-war thriller has never been this dull. The story would lead you to believe the only spycraft that occurred during the 70s was the spies watching themselves within their own agency. These “spymasters” are more worried about their own pecking order within the organization then actually spying on the enemy. And when an enemy is finally revealed, their motivation, “the West has become so ugly,” is so ridiculous it is almost comical. The admittedly impressive cast of British thespians is brought low by the story.
Gary Oldman, normally a dynamic actor, walks like a zombie through the film. His one singular moment to shine, the scene in which he tells of his meeting with the present head of the KGB, allows a brief glimpse of the fine actor we know him to be. Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, and Colin Firth are fine given the material they had to work with. As for John Hurt and Mark Strong, John Hurt plays John Hurt and Mark Strong continues to prove he is the Ted McGinley of film.
The only positives for the film are its music and set direction. The choice of songs and score works for the setting, and the same can be said for the art design. But alas, when the best thing that can be said for a film are its choice in music, then you have a poor film
Grade = D
P.S. My real grade for the film is an “A”. You can read the review here VMR’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.