Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy

By Moira Sullivan
Gary Oldman

I don’t pretend to have enjoyed Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy based on a spy thriller by octogenarian John le Carré, who co-produced the film featured at the 68th Venice Film Festival. The cast features dozens of men and few women – but thank the goddess for Kathy Burke from the cult TV series French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous as Connie Sach. Colin Firth seems lost and veteran actors John Hurt and Gary Oldman spend most of the time delivering their lines in ultra slow motion cued by the director. Action? No, there is no action in this spy thriller. Director Tomas Alfredson was behind the Swedish vampire box office smash Let the Right One In. The success initiated an American remake - Let Me In by Mat Reeves. The Swedish director is out of his element in adapting this novel to screen in that the large project consumes him, like a predator. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema from Let the Right One In is on board and there is nothing flawed in his work. But 20 minutes into the film comes the disappointing realization that the film is just not going to happen.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is about George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a spy who sets out to find a Soviet mole in British Intelligence. The film opens in the present returns to the past to discover the identity of the mole. This doesn’t, however, engage us so I wonder if Tomas Alfredson thought of the film as a "Kindle" novel of John le Carré’s tale. The code names of the spy scene may be enchanting on the page, but the screen adaptation is not able to convey this. By the time we discover the Soviet mole, the wait isn’t worth it. One conclusion is to stop trying to make films of literary novels and stick with the ones that are truly cinematic and not staged plays or readings from a book.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has won awards for technical achievement but I wonder what the San Francisco Film Critics Association was thinking when it awarded best adapted screenplay to Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor. This is because the script is what really holds the film back, in particular the actors and the cinematographer.

To the art director’s credit is a rich mise en scène in this narrative set in 1974– the arrangement of the sets with the actors, clothing, props and lighting in front of the camera. The artefacts from the time period are all there – electronic gadgets and cars of the era, clothing, interior design and ambience. Hoyte Van Hotema gives it all a brownish hue making the objects and scenes really vintage.

© 2011 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 12/21/11
Movie Magazine International

Saturday, December 10, 2011


By Moira Sullivan
Takeshi Kitano, Japanese actor turned director, otherwise known as Beat Takeshi, brings us what he is best at – yakuza or Japanese organized crime films with all their blood and gore. Outrage was part of last year’s Cannes Film Festival’s official selection.
In what can be seen as a Japanese Reservoir Dogs, rival bosses with hidden body tattoos take turns at offing each other to impress the head family.  It seems like every second someone has their face bashed in, or their mouth worked on in the dentist office without Novocain. Takeshi Kitano is a deadpan actor that barely needs to move but instills fear with his cunning style. His motley face is enough to conjure up impending doom, along with the coiled snake energy of some of the other bosses in this film.
 Outrage is predictable but with enough gore to make any yakuza enthusiast satisfied. This is the kind of film that is screened late at night or dead in the middle of winter at film festivals when vicious violence seems to light up the screen and bring the spectator into a secret world of intrigue and cloak and dagger vengeance.
Takeshi Kitano returns with this yakuza tale after a decade absence from the genre. People missed him, and he’s back. He is known for serving up violence with impressive timing—but even after a 10-year vacation. It’s just a manner of who gets sliced and diced first. It is actually Kitano’s goal to make us feel pain.
The yakuza of this film hails back to the time when the bosses tried to control bars and pubs, but Kitano figures that today’s yakuza would be interested in an extortion and revenge scene in information technology.
Outrage gives us our fair share of knife plunging, gun firing adrenalin, all in a cool slick style.  It’s just a movie but Kitano makes you squirm every time there is an impending violent transaction between the bosses. There is no rest until the 90 minute ordeal is over.
© 2011 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 12/7/11  Movie Magazine International