Jan 25, 2012

Movie Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

After four tries (see earlier post) I finally saw Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  The movie felt like putting on an old shoe and most of the British cast’s faces looked like an old shoe, especially John Hurt. The first old shoe I refer to is the mid-seventies, the period I was born in.  Although not too far removed from the present in actual time the seventies feel farther away with more in common with thirty to forty years before than what lay after.  The British seem to be adept at wringing great yarns out of this period with their brilliant Red Riding, and Life on Mars Series, which are (no lying) two of my favorite things ever on TV.  They continue this great yarn wringing tradition with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. A movie that gets great, subtle performances out of its who’s who of British cinema cast (Jesus Colin Firth is in it).  This subtlety fits the period where the superpowers were in a long staring contest called the Cold War.  One lady in the movie, Connie Sachs, who was just forced out of MI6 or as it’s called by the employees, the Circus, reminisces about WWII, saying it was “A war that we could be proud of.”  The Cold War had many more shades of gray than the war that preceded it.    The front lines didn’t have any flanks to turn or hills to take after the little proxy wars died down.  The new soldiers sat in sound-proof modules, isolated, and out of touch, interacting with same colleagues year after year and becoming maybe a little bit bored.  This boredom and lack of upward mobility has led a five member cabal to upend Control, played by John Hurt, and place Percy Alleline, played by Toby Jones, a not too competent Scot in the leadership position, (Warning this quibble is quite nerdy: A Scot named Percy? Really? That’s like naming an Israeli Yassir.  The Percy family were the Earls of Northumberland during much of the Middle Ages and one of Scotland’s greatest enemies. That is all.) and has also led someone in the cabal to become a mole.  This is what George Smiley (Gary Oldman in a role so subtle, he barely speaks and mostly just wears glasses) is tasked to ferret out by Oliver Lacon, the Civil Service Bureaucrat in charge of the intelligence service.  Much intrigue ensues with Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes, Smaug) stealing files for Gary Oldman from under the nose of the Cabal to be able to set up a trap to find the mole.  Tom Hardy also stars as a low level agent who was the first to uncover the mole.  His role is the most emotionally engaged as his Soviet love interest gets captured by the KGB to meet a terrible fate.  Although the movie may be too subtle  (sometimes confusingly) and slow for some, but the movie is so well made and acted it draws you in like an old shoe (tired metaphor by now I know) for a memorable experience.

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