Sep 6, 2017

[Movies] Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of those movie titles that instantly feels memorable and yet it's often tricky to even just remember the title without having seen the movie. But it remained in view for the viewing queue because it's just one of those movies and so I eventually found the time to watch it with Tobie.

And man, this is quite a movie indeed, a complex tale that hearkens back to older movies that had way more plot and dialog than they seem to do today. It's a spy movie that is more about secrets and plots instead of action sequences and complicated stunts. And that doesn't seem like the sort of movie formula that will lead to box office success, but it at least did well with it's home audience.

But really, it's a rather fascinating movie. Sure it's one that demands a lot of time and attention from you but it's a masterful piece of film making that unfolds into something truly remarkable.

Synopsis: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 cold war espionage movie directed by Tomas Alfredson. The screenplay was written by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan based on the John le Carré's novel of the same name.

It's 1973 and an operation to facilitate the defection of a Hungarian general goes awry, leading to the loss of agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) in Budapest given an ambush by unknown assailants. This leads to an international incident and the eventual forced retirement of Control (John Hurt), who later dies as well. Thus Percy Alleline (Toby Jones) becomes the new Control in charge of British Intelligence.

This changing of the guard is not some that sits well with George Smiley (Gard Oldman), who had been made to retire together with Control after the Budapest incident. And the new regime quickly starts an operation "Witchcraft" geared towards securing information from the Soviet Union to be traded with the CIA. But Smiley is brought out of retirement by Cabinet Office civil servant Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney) because of the claim that there's a mole in the organization and Smiley needs to determine the truth of this.

What I Liked: First, there are some serious acting names involved in this movie and they all do a masterful job of bringing the story to life. It's not at all difficult to follow around the likes of Gary Oldman investigating the possibility of a mole in British Intelligence and all the possible suspects are also men considerable esteem given their respective acting experience. the list goes on and on and it's hard not to appreciate the team that brought all these great actors together.

And really at the heart of things is the story - a complex tale that is set up with the detail and care of a master and brought to life on the screen quite well. Who needs big action sequences when we can have an actual investigation with the occasional flashback or visualization of new information being discovered. It's a great well to tell such a big story using this format.

What Could Have Been Better: The movie is a little complicated and a lot of the action is quite subtle and lacks a lot of the flair and spectacle we've gotten used to, mainly because of American movies. Early on I felt like I needed to take notes as we have a good number of characters with apparent value to the plot but how things would come together would not really become clear right away. And thus there's a bit of an investment of trust in the movie that is needed to see the story through.

I kind of wish we had more of John Hurt as Control. I concede this may be more of a selfish request as he does get a fair amount of screen time (or even voice over narration time) but man I kind of wanted more of Control, even if only in flashbacks that were move involved than what we saw in the movie. The lack of such scenes did not hurt the movie - I just wanted more John Hurt, especially considering he is no longer with us now.

TL;DR: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not easy movie watching fare but it is one of worth and value that deserves to be watched. If you can hang on for the initial setup to complete, the rest of the story will become clearer and thus all the more interesting and involving. Thus the movie gets 4 surprise revelations in Smiley's investigation out of a possible 5.


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