Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Flick of The Day: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

John Le Carre has long been the master of the kind of realistic portrayal of espionage that so lends itself to modern cinema. Le Carre's spies are far removed from the world of Fleming's James Bond. There is no glamour at the top of his portrayal of British Intelligence, no gadgets less girls. More liver spots, stomach ailments and a dark and oppressing guilt. Perhaps his best creation is George Smiley, the weary career spy with a thirst for the truth. Alec Guinness made this role his own in the excellent 1979 BBC television mini-series and it is a delight then to report that  the big screen version is a triumph. Today's flick of the day is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
The head of MI6, an aged John Hurt, codename Control sees threats everywhere but he also believes there is a mole at the top of the service, known as the Circus. He launches an operation to find the mole which ends in disaster and he is drummed out of the Circus along with his trusted Lieutenant, George Smiley, played by a mesmeric Gary Oldman. After a period in the wilderness, George is brought out of retirement by the government to investigate the mole after a rogue agent comes forward with information. There are 5 suspects named by Control according to a children's rhyme including Smiley himself as Beggarman. Tinker, Percy Alleline, a scheming Toby Jones. Tailor, Bill Haydon, a suave and charming Colin Firth. Soldier, Roy Bland, a brooding Ciaran Hinds and finally Poorman, the quiet emigre played by David Dencik. Smiley must tease through the facts to find the shocking truth about the mole with the help of reserved foot soldier Peter Guillam, played by a very strong Benedict Cumberbatch.
Directed by Swede Tomas Alfredson, who hit the big time with his 2008 film Let The Right One In, the film has the kind of depressed air so reminiscent of one of those Swedish detective novels with a grey sheen on every surface. It is the perfect portrayal of Britain in the 1970's, a time that is perhaps the darkest for the country in the modern era when unemployment soared and the country was bailed out by the IMF. This depressed air pervades the film and the Circus it portrays. Each of the leads seems to be carrying a great weight on their shoulders, none more so then the quiet and thoughtful Smiley. Oldman has largely created his own Smiley though there are times when it feels very similar to the great Alec Guinness performance. He is of course joined by a fantastic cast, perhaps the best male cast assembled since Glengarry Glen Ross.
Perhaps the best performance comes from Mark Strong, a fine actor most recently seen in The Guard. Here he portrays the betrayed and abused Jim Prideaux, a spy who gets left behind the iron curtain. A small enough role in terms of screen time, he creates a memorable character of the damaged Jim that will stay with you as the credits roll.
All in all, an enjoyable film that is if anything too short in its just over two hour running time. It doesn't leave enough time to develop characters in the same manner as the classic BBC series. That said, it's production values are so much higher then that series and it looks stunning at times. A very fine ending set to the tune of Julio Inglesias closes all the loops. A very fine effort indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow by Email