Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Star Rating:  * * * *


If you’re the kind of person who watched programmes like GMTV everyday during the summer whilst drying yourself off from the morning shower, you would probably have seen several trailers and interviews advertising Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is because the film is kind of a big deal to British men in their forties. Telling the tale of how retired agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) must discover which (of a possible four) agents in the Secret Intelligence Service is actually a mole for the Russians, the story (written by John Le Carré) is recognised as a colder, more mature James Bond (if you check it out in Staines you will definitely be the youngest audience member).


Tinker Tailor… is what you would expect from a spy movie that is more about the actual spying then the action. Alfredson films Europe as a bleak, dark, dank setting, all the characters are very solemn, very British men getting down to some very serious business. It is slow-paced, but this isn’t a flaw as we do jump straight into the story, with Jim Prideaux (played by Royal Holloway’s very own Mark Strong!) being sent on a botched mission to Hungary to begin the investigation. When George Smiley picks up the case, the audience are with him all the way.


The protagonist is played perfectly by Gary Oldman, the kind of brilliant, chameleon-like actor who is truly convincing in any role he’s given. As Smiley, he gives a very meticulous, restrained performance, making the quietest character in the movie the most compelling. Tinker Tailor… has one of the best ensemble performances in recent years so not all good actors can be mentioned, but rising star Tom Hardy and Toby Jones (most well known for playing Dobby in the Harry Potter movies) are particularly impressive.


The last time this story was on the screen was in a five-hour TV series version in the 70s, and whilst watching the film on the big screen you do get the impression that they’ve tried to tighten up a story that should be longer. No matter what problems an audience might have with the journey of the narrative, its destination is satisfying. The final act of the film is genuinely thrilling and quite moving, such as the scene in which Prideaux (who goes from agent to teacher) forces a loner pupil to join in with his classmates at break-time – just so he doesn’t grow up to be a lonely, bitter spy like him. This might be another reason why the film is so popular with middle-aged blokes; it’s about sad, grumpy, quiet guys who are not only the villains but the heroes of the story as well. If you’re in the mood for something completely different from The Inbetweeners Movie, check out Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, another film in which the nerds win.

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