Sunday, March 10, 2013

Film Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

This 2011 film release is pretty far removed from your standard, modern, espionage thriller.  There isn't much action and what there is, is largely played out in the character's minds.

Even the blood and gunplay that is included is done in a way that fits the time period of the story.  The sounds of the guns are muwhile the entry and exit wounds are done in an appropriate, non-Hollywod, manner.

The story revolves around a MI6 officer, George Smiley, who has been forced into retirement being called back to service (did Le Carre create this cliche or has it always been so in the espionage/police/FBI/CIA, etc. thriller??) to help uncover a mole within the British intelligence hierarchy.

My father had this book on his shelf when I was a child as well as one of its sequels in Smiley's People.  It is interesting to note that there have been some changes to the film from the story that seem silly in retrospect.  Benedict Cumberbatch's character, Peter Guillam, is shown in an EXTREMELY brief scene in which he dismisses his live-in boyfriend, to be homosexual.  Seriously, the scene lasts 30 seconds, yet in the novel, the character is straight and ends up married in later novels.  How this will be reconciled in film sequels should be interesting and why it was done at all is suspect. The film gains nothing by its inclusion and would have lost nothing had it been eliminated--the true definition of a throwaway scene.

Regardless, this film is still well done.  Gary Oldman's depiction of George Smiley is properly British and reserved.  The other actors here are a list of the best Brits working in Hollywood today.  Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hurt, and Colin Firth represent some of the best in the business from England..

With the acting being solid the direction is not far behind.  The pacing is deliberate though not slow, the photography a nice, depressing, English grey in color and tone and the story telling intricate but not confusing.

Oldman got numerous acting award nominations for his role as George Smiley which I think is a bit overstated.  He was good but the cast was such an ensemble work and the focus not squarely on the character of George Smiley that singling him out as putting something remarkable on screen here is too much.

In the end, this is a good film, with a well told story and top notch acting.  Its worth seeing, particularly in contrast to most "modern" thrillers.  Just don't expect "Die Hard With an English Accent".

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