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