Friday, January 06, 2012

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY: Gary Oldman Comes In From The Cold War

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (Dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2011)

“Don't trust anyone, especially not in the mainstream.”

This warning, which appears in the first few minutes of this film, may be overly familiar to anyone who has seen just about any paranoid political thriller, yet spoken by John Hurt as “Control”, the ailing head of MI6, it can't help but carry considerable weight.

That can also be said of much of the dialogue in this new adaptation of John le Carré’s 1974 novel (especially coming from the mouths of such refined Englishmen as Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Toby Jones), but in the case of Gary Oldman as British Intelligence officer George Smiley, its the long silences that are the most stirring.

In fact, it's a bit into the film before we even hear Oldman speak.

When the man finally does talk, his dulcet tones recall Alec Guiness, who portrayed Smiley 30 years ago, in a 1979 mini-series adaptation of le Carré’s book, and a 1982 followup Smiley's People.

In London in the early '70s, Oldman's Smiley comes out of enforced retirement to investigate allegations that there is a "mole, right at the top of the Circus." Meaning that a Soviet spy has long infiltrated the highest echelon of the Secret Intelligence service.

The title refers to the codenames given to the suspects: "Tinker" (Jones as the new Chief of the Circus), "Tailor" (Firth as Jones' Deputy), "Soldier", and "Poorman" (Ciarán Hinds and David Dencik as close allies in the Circus).

After that you're on your own with the plot, which is so murky and shadowy that many folks may have trouble following it (the people in the audience around me sure did, as I heard murmered questioning throughout the screening I attended).

However, if you pay close attention right from the beginning, you should be able to make sense of it (and maybe even guess who the mole is) - to a degree. There's still some plot points I'm not sure I understand.

No matter, Alfredson's film is still extremely immersive, with it's sparely lit wide shots of dusty office spaces and drab apartment houses as backdrops to back-stabbing treachery.

Oldman gives a tour de force of minimalism as the never smiling Smiley. Only showing intense emotion in one scene, Oldman's restrained and deadly serious demeanor navigates through the movie with precision. Throughout his career the man has gone to dizzying extremes - witness his over-the-top work as Sid Vicious, Count Dracula, and Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg (the villain in THE FIFTH ELEMENT) - but here it's all about what he's thinking; his inward turmoil.

The rest of the cast is spot-on as well - particularly Firth in his comfort zone of charm, Jones nicely settled in his stogginess, and Cumberbatch nailing his character's nervousness and confusion.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY is edgy espionage at its finest. Just take note that it's not a film one can watch casually. To fully get it, you have to quietly concentrate on the proceedings of these old grey men in high places of power, and listen intently to every spoken word, parsing every utterance for clues.

In other words, you have to be just like George Smiley.

More later...


msmariah said...

I really enjoyed this film. It was a little slow moving, but overall worth the wait. It was hard to follow at times, but a good movie.

MicBoyzInc said...

great movie... we run a blog on indian films.. reviews, exclusive pictures, interviews with celebrities and stuff..
from mar ivanios college, Trivandrum, Kerala