7 September, 2011

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy

Director: Tomas Alfredson Run time: 127 mins 

Review by Dan Collacott 

This adaptation of John le Carré’s much lauded bleak Cold War spy thriller, sees Gary Oldman step into a role made famous by the genius Alec Guinness. Oldman's George Smiley may cut a lank tragic figure, but he steals every scene he is on camera; more than matching the presence of his predecessor. Smiley's ruthless genius simmers behind his thick rimmed glasses as he quietly and reservedly unravels the web of deception at the film's fast beating heart.

It’s 1973, when a Circus (MI6) mission in Budapest goes badly wrong the organisation almost implode as a consequence. The head of the Circus (John Hurt), known as Control, along with his right-hand man George Smiley are forced into early retirement. But the mystery behind the mission's failure doesn't abate and the government give Smiley a chance to secretly track down the double agent believed to be at the centre of the agencies failures (and on the Soviet pay roll). A game of chess ensues as Smiley with assistance from Peter Guillam and Ricky Tarr (Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy) attempt to out maneuver and systematically root out the 'mole' within the Circus. The silken yet rogueish Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) stays in his sights throughout, along with the other larger than life Circus characters including Bland (Ciaran Hinds), Esterhase (David Dencik) and Alleline (Toby Jones) all of whom add meat to the bones of the building conspiracy.

There is much to marvel at the way director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) has captured the culture and absurdity of the British spy game, using all manner of camera angles and complex visuals to give menace and fluidity to the grey and mundane, weaving suspense seamlessly into the movements of the old heads at work. What we are left with is a beautifully shot, acted and thoroughly old fashioned spy thriller bursting through a subtle layer cake of suspense and intrigue.

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy is a throw back to a golden era of British cinema. The astonishing attention to period detail and cream of current British actors present here have already helped push this to the front of the big awards queue. One thing is certain, Oldman's performance alone makes this film worth the entrance fee.