Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Film Review: "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (2011)

"There's a mole, right at the top of the Circus. And he's been there for years." This is the premise of this adaption of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This British espionage film directed by Tomas Alfredson, adapted by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan based on the 1974 novel of the same name by John le Carré. Set in London in the early 1970s, the story follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service.

The project began when Peter Morgan wrote a draft of the screenplay, which he offered to Working Title Films to produce. Morgan dropped out as the writer owing to personal reasons, but still served as an executive producer. Following Morgan's departure, Working Title hired Peter Straughan and his wife, Bridget O'Connor, to rewrite the script. Park Chan-wook (Oldboy (2003)) considered directing the film, but ultimately turned it down. Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In (2009)) was confirmed to direct on 9 July 2009. This marked the production as English language film debut. With a budget of $21 million, financially backed by France’s StudioCanal, principal photography began on October 7th 2010 and concluded on December 22nd in England.

The film stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, and co-stars Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ciarán Hinds. Though the cast gave their best performances that they could offer, it felt rather stale and inferior to performances seen in other espionage spy thrillers such as the James Bond/007 films. Ultimately, it did not live up to the characters who filled this unique story by le Carré. The only performance that stood out the most was none other than George Smiley himself, Gary Oldman. Alfredson cast Gary Oldman in the role of Smiley, and described the actor as having "a great face" and "the quiet intensity and intelligence that's needed". Many actors were connected to the other roles at various points, but only days before filming started, Oldman was still the only lead actor who officially had been contracted. Originally, David Thewlis was in talks but declined. Oldman understood the illusion of being a nondescript sort of man with a remarkable mind, authority and a gutful of secrets, sorrows and sins behind the serious spectacles. His performance definitely deserves, at least, an Oscar nomination.

Grim, monotonous, and rather facile, though Gary Oldman's aging agent, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has some honest poignancy. The film is Self-consciously dour where the James Bond movies were insouciantly callous. However, it is an excellent contemporary espionage drama of the Cold War, which achieves solid impact via emphasis on human values, total absence of mechanical spy gimmickry, and perfectly controlled underplaying. The film makes you believe it could have happened. And that's the remarkable thing. Not one of the best espionage thrillers ever made, but it is certainly not the worst.

Simon says Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy receives:

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