Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) - Tomas Alfredson


It's England, 1973, Control (the head of British Intelligence nicknamed 'the Circus) is convinced there is a double-agent in the highest branch of the agency working for the Russians. After a botched mission in Hungary he and his right hand man George Smiley are forced into retirement. However after a civil servant (Oliver Lacon) in charge of intelligence is given a warning about the mole, he decides to covertly bring Smiley out of retirement to find the mole......

A very good spy thriller. Gary Oldman is excellent here as the restrained Smiley; it's a performance you have to watch closely since so much is internal, you're watching to see the flashes of emotions Smiley chooses to show, or not, to the world. Such is the life of a spy I suppose and it's a credit to Oldman that I can't imagine many other actors pulling off the same level of performance. The rest of the cast comprise of Hurt, Mark Strong, Firth, Cumberbatch who are all solid and in some cases have really stupid hair cuts.

Alfredson manages to show us an older, grimer London that [i]feels[/i] drenched in grey and paranoia; it does look quite beautiful in a grubby kind of way. His view as a non-native works to his advantage since the way he's shot the film makes it seem that we the audience are the outsiders looking in, catching fragments of this mysterious world, trying to piece the puzzle together along with Smiley, who it appears is at least a few steps ahead of us. A lot of the film is comprised of scenes of people in rooms talking to each other and the fun of these scenes is deciphering who is telling the truth and whether the emotion showing is genuine or a bluff or a double-bluff. Alfredson does manage to ratchet up the tension surprisingly well when he needs to as the film draws to a close and Smily closes in on the mole.

If it does have faults it is more to do with the fact that it's adapted from a much more detailed novel. The script for a film is naturally going to be pared down and a different animal naturally; while I think for the most part it is very well crafted and engaging done, it does feel sometimes that there are sections missing or glossed over. It is only 127 minutes long and it feels like it could have been more.

Overall a thoroughly absorbing mystery/thriller that I enjoyed a lot.