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9/30/11

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY - REVIEW


Spy movies have been done and redone in millions of different ways. Johnny English Reborn is out soon but for those looking for something a little more substantial and a little less...2003 there's always this little number. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy may not boast Mr Bean hijinx but with a first class British cast it should peak the interest of most regardless.

So far the critics have been unanimously dreamy but does Thomas Alfredson's film really adds more to John Le Carré's tale than the BBC mini series?

Hard to say.

Yes the running time is obviously condensed but that turns out to be both a bit of a blessing and a bit of a curse. At a bit more than two hours, the film feels about three hours long. And the ending, although it doesn't really feel rushed, lacks the punch it could have had if we'd been given a bit more time to care for these great characters.

Great characters which are played to perfection by the way.

This is a great cast and no one puts a foot wrong. Gary Oldman gives a brilliantly restrained performance which leaves the hammy OTT cookiness of last year's Book Of Eli far behind. He plays his age and does great work slowly developing such a subtle character. Colin Firth and Mark Strong are also spot-on as arguably the film's most complex characters, one almost wishes the film could have been primarily more about them rather than Oldman's George Smiley going around town asking questions like Inspector Morse. Honorable mention also goes to the always great John Hurt who gets the show on the road effortlessly.

The film itself is about as subtle as it gets. Every grain on the 70's style film, every muscle on Mark Strong's forehead is saying something. This adds more layers to the simplistic core premise. But unlike Infernal Affairs or The Departed, there's very little to hang onto emotionally or entertainment-wise. I guess it was kind of the point to have those gloomy spies remain locked in this cold, lifeless, grey environment and go about their shady business. But then, what's in it for us?

The film starts off brilliantly with Strong's spy taking part in a disastrous mission then we're introduced to all these terrific characters and then it's just a long wait for payoffs which either come way too late or come with no impact whatsoever. There were so many opportunities to make Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy more than a classier, star-studded TV movie. It's a good film, don't get me wrong: brilliantly acted, very stylish, cleverly subtle. But it's far from being the Earth-shattering genius masterpiece the critic promised.

I'd be surprised if I remembered that one in a year or so.

Decent, very strong and well made just...lacking in urgency or soul not just in its content but in its execution.

I miss Chris Nolan...

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