Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review

Posted on October 6, 2011


Operation “Faux-pas Review” has commenced, control, “roger”. *Bzzt*.

I am travelling parallel to the target, weaving through streets, with my standard issue peep-hole newspaper obscuring my face from Russian sleeper agents. If they catch me my cover is blown.

I am tailing the tailor. That’s why we call me the tail. I am the tailor’s tail. If he suspects me I will tell a tall tale to the tailor, “My name is George, I work in retail, come, there’s a sale”.

[Inner monologue]: “I will prevail”.

*Cue funky espionage music*… Followed by a shot of 1970’s London with a trench-coat wearing cockey door-to-door salesman doing his best jazz hands acts…

Confused? So am I.

If the previous verses made any sense to you at all, then you are both insane AND perfectly suited to watching the masterful movie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Trying to sum up Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is like drawing a map for a place you didn’t even know existed. First of all it’s difficult, secondly, it will be undoubtedly inaccurate and thirdly, my image of this place will be different from yours, in otherwords, Tinker has so many levels, what I take from the film may not necessarily be what you will take from it. It is a multi-layered masterpiece that assumes the viewer is both intelligient and attentive. Not many films require effort to watch but all the plot devices used are subtle and can be missed if you pop out for a wee wee or what not…

It is based on the 1974 novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré and I am toying with the idea of reading this but I have such high hopes for it that I may find myself disappointed.

The protagonist: retired spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is a shrewd old dog who is recruited to root out a mole in British intelligence, naturally he keeps dialogue to a minimum, effectively this keeps the viewer…. viewing. The great thing is that you will have the same thought processes as George if you are attentive enough.

The first twenty minutes of the film, in Hungarian by the way, portray the betrayal of a British spy: the next twenty minutes feature Smiley silently observing and analysing the situation, trying to figure out the who, what, where’s and why.

Oldman’s performance was sublime *cough* “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar for Oldman“. Excuse me, ahem.

The supporting cast does more than support too, each character realistically shows a different set of inadequacies and vulnerabilities that really makes them believable adding further depth and mystery to the proceedings, it doesn’t feel like acting.

I am also pleased to say that Mark Strong has finally broken his villain type-cast –Stardust, Robin Hood, Green Lantern, Kickass– which was such a surprise to me. I sat smugly in the cinema, arms crossed, having “solved it already”. Mark Stong is always the antagonist.

I was so wrong.

This film made me feel like a 5-year-old trying to learn algebra…

With Tinker, nothing is as transparent, the truth is elusive and it is fitting that Smiley solves the case almost half an hour before the viewer. This is almost a pioneering technique for Hollywood as even though most fimls fall into this category, there is nothing worse than guessing the ending to a film ten minutes in.

Tinker is an intelligent spy-flick, make no mistake, there will be no Jason Bourne action or James Bond gadgetry, this affair seems classier, without sounding like a caviar-sucker, it is simply more refined.

Go to the cinema. Watch it. Buy it on blu-ray. Watch it again and most importantly watch it sober with minimal distractions. If so, you will be rewarded with more intelligence and intrigue than you know what to do with.

And one more thing…

Watch your back, they are observing you.

And if it hasn’t already hit you as obvious, 5 out of 5*s