There are so many spy films out there that in order to appreciate a new one it has to have an element very few offer, ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ has it but not enough to entertain for more than an hour. The movie does well in drawing in the audience with its retro look and mysterious scenes but its game of cat and mouse starts getting boring. The fine acting in it gives it appeal as well as the fact that it’s based on a continuous successful story: John Le Carré’s book and TV miniseries from the 70’s.
Le Carré gave director Thomas Alfredson his blessing to create his own version of this well-known story, he told him “Please don’t shoot the book or remake the TV miniseries. They already exist.” The story is about discovering a mole that has infiltrated the English Secret Intelligence Services’ most secure circle referred to as “the circus”; it is set in 1973 during the Cold War. This was a period where the whole world was shaking with uncertainty and none trusted their own shadow. The director did an excellent job setting the piece in the 70’s it could be easily mistaken for something done in the era with the sepia colors, fashion and environment.
The story begins with a secret job done by Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) gone wrong and it opens up a whole can of worms. This incident puts George Smiley (Gary Oldman) into forced retirement, which he then is pulled out of in order to find the double agent inside the agency working for the soviets. Smiley works off the list of 5 men the head of the Circus “Control” had pinned down when he still worked for the service. These are all men Smiley has known most of his career: Percy Alleline (Toby Jones) code named Tinker, Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) known as Tailor, Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds) nicknamed Soldier, Toby Esterhase (David Denick) and the last man on Control’s list is Smiley himself. Smiley is the perfect spy he blends in and is hard to notice at the beginning of the film where he barely utters a word, but as the film develops we see the beauty of Oldman’s acting while he gets help from the only two men he can trust Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) who shows up unexpectedly asking for help in exchange of information and Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) an agent eager to learn.
It is said Le Carré’s story was so successful back in the 70’s because the Cold War and espionage was something many people could relate to at the time, so hearing a real spy tell his stories was worth seeing. The same can be said of this film because Oldman does an excellent job to try to involve us in the story but there are elements in the movie that confuse and bore us. The technique of flashbacks is used a lot throughout the narration, which works, but when we have continuous flashbacks and back and forth opinions on who might be the mole it just starts getting unappealing. There is more than one interesting story tying the movie together but by the time we finally find out who the mole is we no longer care and we forgot what information was even given to the other side to feel relieved.
It is refreshing to see a movie involving spies that doesn’t have much action or gore, with a few scenes in exception. Unfortunately though I think we have become accustomed to a small dosage of either or both in order to enjoy a good story. I see this more as a movie to pop in on a lazy Sunday as long as you are feeling awake enough to try to follow all the twists and chatter to figure out who the mole is. PS. Look out for Oldman’s favorite scene that he told us about in our interview, where he does a long monologue without the help of flashbacks a fine piece of acting!