FilmDecember 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

‘Tinker Tailor Soldier’ Spy Packs A Punch

This novel adaptation brings the Cold War to life.

Coming off of his romantic-horror hit, Let the Right One In (2008), Swedish director Tomas Alfredson decides to try his hand at the political thriller genre with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy — a Cold War espionage yarn based on the novel by John le Carré.

The film follows George Smiley (Oldman), an officer for the British Intelligence (“Circus”), forced into retirement after an international debacle following the assassination of undercover Circus agent. Smiley is brought out of retirement to examine the allegations of another British agent, Ricki Tarr (Hardy), who claims that a long-standing Soviet mole exists within the Intelligence unit. As he travels further down the rabbit hole of international political intrigue, he begins to understand, now as much as ever, that in his profession, deceit and betrayal are as commonplace as the coat and tie he dons each day.

Tinker Tailor boasts a terrific ensemble, helmed by a controlled, yet beautifully nuanced performance from Oldman. What’s more, Colin Firth’s commanding tone and Hardy’s emotionally raw delivery effectively complement the conservative, less-is-more mood of the rest of the film.

Yet, the picture does suffer from a script that holds too many details to the chest in favor of a steady and subtle crescendo throughout the narrative. Subtlety can be a wonderful thing in movies — and it’s no doubt that it’s an under-exercised virtue in the political thriller genre (nobody’s asking for another Bourne installment here). But, in a movie with as many twists and turns as this one, abrupt shifts in time and place, with little explicit explanation, can render it all too easy to get lost in the intricate web of events that Alfredson attempts to portray.

Furthermore, the script’s lack of emphasis on both the characters’ development and relationships detracts quite noticeably from the profundity of the narrative’s ultimate reveal, once Smiley does in fact uncover the man behind the curtain. It’s a shame, really, since given the film’s excellent closing sequence in the final ten minutes (nearly worth the two hours in it’s own right,) it’s undeniable that with all the pieces in place, Alfredson can pack quite the cinematic punch.

Though at the end of the day, the shortcoming’s within Tinker Tailor’s storytelling does little to detract from the film’s graceful, careful composition and stellar performances.

3/5 stars
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Colin Firth
Rated R. 127 min.

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