Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of John le Carre's 1974 novel, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy re-ignites the espionage genre, harking back to the golden age of espionage cinema. Here we see George Smiley (Gary Oldman) pulled out from retirement to track down a Soviet mole working from inside MI6.

It's incredibly hard to believe that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was not directed by a Brit, it's got a real sense of the espionage genre and 1970's British life - centred around smoky boardrooms, country manor houses, grey parks, boarding schools and even the typical office Christmas party. These are just the settings to an incredibly strong and complex adaption of the novel. At points, I lost track of what was happening; which is I'm sure how Smiley also felt trying to track down that damn mole in the circus. I'm sure I would benefit from a second viewing, because this is an incredibly layered film.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy oozes influences from the likes of The ICPRESS File and the other Harry Palmer films, as well as the early 1960's James Bond films (there's thankfully not a safari suit in sight). There's also some flashbacks to Hungarian locations - where literally every foreigner was treated as a suspect, giving us a real sense of Cold War paranoia. Alfredson does incredibly well at filtering this sense of suspicion and tension throughout the film. This is not action packed, special effects laden cinema - it's a brooding, murky, grey spy thriller with even the characters reflecting these elements.

Oldman's George Smiley is not an action hero, instead a quiet, conscientious man and like Alec Guinness, he has completely nailed the part. This is just an ordinary man doing his job, living a supposedly 'quiet life' with thick framed glasses and stuffy suit. There's a fantastic point at the end where Smiley's character gains the upper hand and we see a more powerful side to the character. I'd love to see Oldman reprise the role, which I'm sure given the success of the film is being considered.

Oldman is joined by a further acting giants: from John Hurt's irate, old boy and head of the circus, to Toby Jones, Colin Firth, David Dencick and Ciaran Hinds as those the top of the circus. Each character gets a fair amount of screen time to show off their acting talents with each one as suspicious as the next, creating a genuine enigma as to who the mole actually is. Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and the tremendously underused Kathy Burke all appear and are welcome additions to the cast. However, given the amount of stars, some of the supporting characters feel slightly glazed over, lacking a bit of development which can slightly add to the confusion.  This isn't necessarily bad, once again- it represents the chaos and agitation, facing the circus. Everyone is literally a suspect and this theme of paranoia had me on the edge of my seat.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy features a magnificent soundtrack from Alberto Iglesias (who also did an excellent job with The Skin I Live In) with wonderful use of original music and existing tracks - especially a Julio Iglesias cover of La Mer used in the film's climax (and stuck in my head for three days).

Alfredson' has given us a thinking persons thriller, it's taken the strongest elements of 1960/70s espionage cinema and shown us that they're still just as exciting in the 21st Century (This is the direction Bond should be taking - proper 1950/60s set adaptation of Ian Fleming's novels). Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a first rate adaptation of le Carre's novel with strong direction, terrific performances and a tense, brooding atmosphere throughout.

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