short film reviews, criticism, and occasional musing.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011, UK)

I had the same issue with Tomas Alfredson’s new film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that I did with John Le Carre’s novel – it’s a meticulously plotted, densely realistic world without a single character I care a bit about. The movie may suffer more from this malady than the book does, as with a running time of just over two hours, some of the tertiary characters – even some of the secondary characters – get short shrift. If you can’t tell the prospective culprits apart, how invested can you get in the hunt for the mole?

That said, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has a lot going for it – it’s beautifully shot in a mix of ‘70s earth tones and Cold War grays, and the cast is top-notch, particularly Gary Oldman in what has to be one of the quietest roles of his career. I think late middle age will agree with Oldman, if he continues to find work like this that allows him to dig deep. Tom Hardy is perfect as outcast spy Ricki Tarr, a kinetic fuckup one could imagine as a realistic James Bond, taking all of the myth and the fantasy out of being an international spy. Truly, the cast doesn’t have a weak link (I also quite liked Mark Strong and Toby Jones), though it’s a shame to basically waste someone like Colin Firth on what could have been a meaty role had the film had more time to expand the world of Tinker Tailor. I’ve been hearing raves about the Alec Guinness-led miniseries from the ‘70s, which is of the length to do the plot of the book justice, but to be frank, I can’t imagine spending more time with these characters than I alredy have.


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