A true spy movie that gives us nothing cheaply, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is packed so full of talent that its only true loss is that it can’t give enough screen time to all the actors. The first half might be a tad confusing and for some it might appear slow and bloated (or maybe even pretentious or Oscar baiting) but for the patient movie-goer it’s a riveting portrayal of a group of ordinary men in extraordinary jobs.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based off a bestselling novel by John le Carré, and tells the story of retired MI6 agent George Smiley, who must figure out who the mole is in the highest circle of agents. There really isn’t anything more to say about the plot, for you should really just experience it yourself.
There is something strangely comforting about this film. Perhaps it’s how it takes its time to such a degree, which after all the action thrillers I’ve seen this week is rather refreshing. If you allow yourself to fall into its rhythm, it will leave an impact. I won’t argue it’s for everyone – many will simply be bored to tears – but there aren’t really many shots I would have cut. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely one of the best made, and edited, films I’ve reviewed in a while.
Its greatest strength lies without a doubt in its cast. Gary Oldman, who plays Smiley, and his gang of spies tell their stories with looks, twitches, gestures and tone of voice. Sometimes, all you have to interpret is the back of someone’s head, but it all works because it makes the audience feel like a spy. Not James Bond of course, but the man who waits patiently for his opponent to show his cards first. This is definitely an ask first, shoot later, type of movie.
I knew I would like this movie the moment I saw the opening credits. It made me think of old crime movies and TV shows. The look and feel of the 70s is so real, and the style pays homage to old films. I can’t recall how many shots of men walking up elaborate staircases I saw, but trust me: it all builds, layer upon layer of anticipation, until something has to give and the audience is truly shocked (at least those of us who haven’t read the book). This is a movie entirely at ease with its pace and tone, and it won’t be rushed in any way. To a younger audience, used to Michael Bay’s pace of action, it might seem as if it’s daring you to want it to go faster, but therein lies its punch.
I could probably rant away about some of the great shots in this movie, or talk about lighting and camera work – not to mention a separate rant for each actor (with special attention paid to Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch) – but I’ll stop and just say: give this an honest try, on a quiet night, and you’ll be intrigued.
Dice roll: 5