I want to say right up front that phrases like ‘thinking man’s’ or ‘old school’ are going to surround this film and I would strongly (and briefly) like to say that people saying this to you are categorically stupid. If you don’t want to ‘think’, be engaged, or challenged in a tense realistic spy thriller this film wasn’t made for you. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is called out of retirement to secretly investigate a mole in the upper ranks of MI6. Le Carre’s source material is an elevated platform for writers Straughan and O’Connor to formulate a pitch perfect and suspenseful thriller with profound depth. Being transported back to the 70s is a relieving plot device – ridiculous technology doesn’t exist yet. Information is the currency and the people trafficking the information are a commodity. The agent’s ability to distinguish truth from deception during their interaction with people willing to disclose that information is their primary objective in this context. The more involved you are with the key characters, the more involving they become.
The direction is stunning. Tomas Alfredson (director of Let the Right One In) certainly does impresses on every front. Tinker is a performance clinic and I’d like to call out some actors individually. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, War Horse) plays Peter, Smiley’s final trusted source within MI6 and is a staunch and commanding presence on screen. Tom Hardy brings a warmth and passion to the frame and a more organic approach because of his lengthy time in the field undercover. He’s got such an amazing intensity but in this context he’s necessarily demure. It’s no surprise that Oscar winner Colin Firth is continuing his purple patch; his ability to withdraw from the leading role and support his cast so generously with detached nuance. Mark Strong’s humanity in Tinker is his key strength in this trustless environment.
Gary Oldman was not in this film. George Smiley was in this film. I was fascinated with unearthing his thoughts at any given moment. He’s playing a game, and keeping his cards close to his chest. Can you read his poker face? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is essentially flawless. The characters were rich and perfect fodder for the cache of astounding performers – none more than Gary Oldman who delivers a disarmingly restrained performance that sits amongst the best of his career.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is available now on DVD, Blu Ray and for Digital Download.
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by: Bridget O’Connor (screenplay), Peter Straughan (screenplay) from the John LeCarre Novel
Starring: Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, and Tom Hardy