Where were the green fields around Jim Prideaux's prep school? I'm not going to venture into the actual plot but the performances. His head turns slowly to the left in the direction of the impudent sound and the instantaneous look of sheer effrontery and disdain on Oldman's face will leave you chuckling as his peaceful reverie is rudely disturbed. Compare that to the brilliant 1979 performance in that role by the late Ian Richardson. John Le Carre is without doubt one of the literary greats of the late 20th Century. John Hurt as the aging, instinct-driven leader of the British service, and Tom Hardy, who is Ricki Tarr the dirty cleaner for British intelligence's most fowl operations. It transpires that Control believed one of four senior figures in the service was in fact a Russian agent — a mole — and the Hungary operation was an attempt to identify which of them it was. That itself had been a multi-part production but here the action, or should that be inaction, is condensed into a still lengthy two and a half-hour film.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; despite of its brilliant execution and stellar performances, is a writers show that helps the feature kick in to their world from the first frame keeping it smart and true to its tone throughout the course of it. Alfredson and screenwriters Bridget O' Connor and Peter Straughan demonstrate a keenness for the more tensely-oriented end of the genre, delving into an atmosphere of unease rather than one of brisk spy action. Le Carre supported and praised it liberally but I happen to know he thinks the Guinness version was the quintessential one. Alongside the narrative and its cast, one of the more surprising aspects of the film, is Alfredson, Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and Editor Dino Jonsater's use of stylistic nuances that further enhance the viewing experience. Wide angle shots and long lenses are used for interior and exterior locations, showcasing the breakdowns of their interiors, while close-up shots are used to examine objects and characters in their most frail states.
There is almost an air of claustrophobia to much of the film, the caliginous cinematography and mysterious score combining to evoke an aura of noir paranoia. The key scene with Connie Sachs is destroyed by a totally out-of-place crudity and the climax, when the mole is revealed, is thrown away with zero drama. In the early 1970s during the Cold War, the head of British Intelligence, Control Sir John Hurt , resigns after an operation in Budapest, Hungary goes badly wrong. This means that his novels are fundamentally uncinematic , a fact reflected that so little of his work has been adapted to the silver screen. Much has been made of Oldman's not saying a word in the first 18 minutes of the film, but this can be easily matched by some characters who had barely a sentence of two in the whole production. Gary Oldman's playing is very much in the shadow of Guinness and no-one else distinguished themselves in my eyes. A master of complex story telling his novels are often composed of characters standing around discussing complicated geo-political situations and the human condition.
Through a love affair with the wife of a Russian intelligence officer, a British agent, Ricki Tarr Tom Hardy discovers that there may be a high ranking Soviet mole within the Circus. An espionage thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? The cream of contemporary British acting talent, old and young, pretty much is the whole cast but I didn't get any sense of the actors really inhabiting their parts. I think this movie falls into the same category as the story about The Emperor Who Had No Clothes. The production design is a masterpiece on its on. It is only when you see the characterisation that cinema is capable of, in films like this, that you realise how crudely drawn and unsatisfying most performances are at the moment. The new writers haven't betrayed that lore, they've reformatted it, if that's the right word. On that level it was, as Le Carre himself has said, fairly masterful.
It will keep you guessing and get you trying to work out who the mole is to the very end. I saw it twice at the cinema and the second time around I found it more interesting. They are faceless people with difficult names and we don't care which one of them is the bad guy. Because I came prepared to the second showing the mind was more free to concentrate, not on the differences, but on the story, the acting, and the essence of the film itself. Gary Oldman's portrayal of George Smiley was brilliantly enigmatic. . I understood this but then we cut to a character after character discussing who the mole might be , do we have a mole and we don't have a mole and very soon I was very lost.
Alongside the young Intelligence officer Peter Guillam Benedict Cumberbatch , Smiley has four primary candidates to focus his investigation upon; they are the last remaining members of the Circus, Bill Haydon Colin Firth , Percy Alleline Toby Jones , Roy Bland Ciaran Hinds and Toby Esterhase David Dencik. Did Cirian Hinds even have any lines in the movie? Alfredson never rushes any moment, instead he allows for the audience to become accustomed to their surroundings and appreciate their beauty. By providing those observing the action on screen with just enough information that they themselves become entwined within Smiley's investigation as he moves forward. He's not Oxford he admitted having trouble with the voice nor an academic, probably the very essence of Smiley who was based on Vivien Green. All the complex threads of the story were followed clearly.
Others have commented on the plot, but that is not the most interesting part of Tinker Tailor. All those previous versions tended to echo one another in their portrayal of the characters so to come to this one, which is in many ways so different, took some adjustment. Anyhow, as I said, it definitely took some rethinking because I was so steeped in previous versions and the lore of the Smiley novels. Academy Award winner Colin Firth had barely more to say, and I doubt if his role in the film contained even a whole page of dialog. This is definitely a watch-again film and I look forward to seeing more like it. The trailers were incredibly misleading and it is not the audience's fault if they expected more. However, when a disgraced agent reappears with information concerning a mole at the heart of the service, Smiley is drawn back into the murky field of espionage.
In the course of trimming the material to film-length, someone decided to leave out character development. The plot is not lost by the time reduction; on the contrary, it's very clear, if one knows it, and the acting was good, as one might expect from that cast. I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of this 2011 version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy with Gary Oldman, but when it finally arrived I was so disappointed that I considered leaving the theater shortly after the movie began. Lingering close-up shots of seemingly insignificant objects and shallow focus shots constantly evoke the nature of mystery and intrigue which surrounds such clandestine organisations. Gary Oldman has given his best in it along with the help of a great supporting cast like Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Toby Jones and Tom Hardy. This is all well and good but illustrates the fact highly regarded novels often don't lend themselves to great cinema. And, as quite a few reviewers have pointed out, they should probably follow it with Smiley's People.
Smiley's world is a far cry away from the glitz and glamour that the espionage genre has become accustomed to. I liked the way the characters and locations were introduced verbally by another character and then visually in the film, so it was always clear where the action was taking place and who was in the scene. There must be many more stories of espionage to mine from both sides of the Iron Curtain and I do hope this film kick starts a renewed interest in telling the stories of the Cold War warriors who shaped the modern world. Forty-six year old Swedish director Tomas Alfredson came to prominence three years ago when he directed the film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel 'Let The Right One In'. Impersonal raincoats wore by the very personal Gary Oldman are only part of the story. Smiley considers that the failure of the Hungary operation and the continuing success of Operation Witchcraft an apparent source of significant Soviet Intelligence confirms this, and takes up the task of finding him. Never have I seen such a compilation of such fabulous performances together.
But why make every scene grimy? It transpires that Control believed one of four senior figures in the service was in fact a Russian agent - a mole - and the Hungary operation was an attempt to identify which of them it was. Suspense is not built and the plot is unnecessarily slow and plodded along. Aided by Peter Guillam Bendedict Cumberbatch who is Tarr's handler, Smiley sets about uncovering the mole without the knowledge of Circus leadership, anyone of whom might be the mole, headed by Percy Alleline Toby Jones and his deputies Bill Haydon Colin Firth , Roy Bland Ciarán Hinds and Toby Esterhase David Dencik? I went to this expecting, given the cast and LeCarre's involvement, that it would be an interesting attempt to compress and update the original and that the noble effort would fall short. And there are also those who hated it initially and then came over to its side. The only character in this film who exuded any sense of real life was that of Jim Prideaux, played by Mark Strong.