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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy [Blu-ray]
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Cold war thriller, based on the best-selling novel by John Le Carré, in which a semi-retired intelligence officer is assigned the task of uncovering a high-ranking Soviet agent within MI6. When British agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) discovers, courtesy of an affair, that there may be a Russian agent operating at a high level in MI6, it is clear that an investigation into the issue will be delicate matter. Enter George Smiley (Gary Oldman), an old hand in intelligence circles, and his associate, Peter Gulliam (Benedict Cumberbatch). The pair are assigned the task of tracking down the spy, but must do so under the radar of the MI6 leadership, for the very reason that they are all under suspicion...
Adapted from John le Carré’s uniquely British 1973 espionage novel, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is set in the analogue conditions of the Cold War, a time when cassette tape and Telex were your only gadgets and where middle-aged spies exchanged looks of cordial hatred--and the occasional loyalty--like Bond and Bourne exchange weapons, women and warm locations. Gary Oldman (Leon, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) plays George Smiley, the former agent who’s called in from the cold to hunt down one of his own--a Soviet mole in the top ranks of the leaky secret service that runs MI5 and MI6. Once inside, his investigations are simultaneously professional and deeply personal: digging around for one double-crossing colleague selling secrets to the Russians only unearths another sleeping with his wife. Le Carré’s London hasn’t been updated so much as back-filled with autumnal 1970s design: brown and pumpkin patterns upholster the shabby little rooms and crooked staircases through which the spies pursue each other, while the supporting cast--John Hurt, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Kathy Burke, Mark Strong and a porcine Toby Jones--is regularly squeezed, often several titans of British cinema at a time, into cramped British cars or shelf-sized offices. George Smiley has a natural home in Oldman, who, like Smiley, has a self-effacing control of his craft--hiding himself in outrageous villains or declining a credit entirely, as he did in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal. With its atmospheric drab and novelistic pace, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the kind of chamber-piece that suits showy ensemble performances, but Oldman’s turn as Smiley is the most subtle in recent history. --Leo Batchelor
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Top Customer Reviews
Firstly, there are no explosions, chases, babes or helicopters (as if any potential viewer didn't know that) so be prepared to sit, watch and think rather than expect action and glitz to flow over you. Sure, there are some holes and inconsistencies; I suppose that I take a less forensic view to viewing films than do many of the reviewers here.
I don't care that we don't see the characters build to point the way to the identity of the mole because for me the identity of the mole is immaterial. This is about loyalty, betrayal and sacrifice. A few examples:
* Guillam ends his relationship immediately on considering that it might be used against him, quite a sacrifice in my opinion.
* A terrific moment of acting as Smiley makes a deal with Tarr that he knows will violate Tarr's trust because he can't fulfil the spirit of the deal.
* What a strange world where someone who makes such a sacrifice for their country ends up living in a caravan and teaching at a boarding school after being bunged only a few quid and a car.
There were some nice juxtapositions that made me think of how fragile lives might be and the fine line between normality and hardship.Read more ›
The family also enjoyed the cinematic experience - what they did not enjoy is the plot, which they only barely discerned. They knew there was a mole at the top of the Circus, they saw that the mole was unearthed, but they couldn't figure out how the film got from one to the other. They were perplexed by the flashbacks, not being at all sure that that's what they were, or how they fitted into the scheme of things. They were totally bewildered by the singing of the Soviet National Anthem at the Christmas party (a frill absent from the book)! In short, it was a film that they could tick off as having seen, but which didn't enthuse them. (We are talking here about a family all of whom have university degrees and are very literate). To them, it came across as a series of discrete tableaux, each beautifully realised, but which didn't seem to hang together at all.
I can see their point, which makes me wonder why the plot couldn't have been made clearer. Was it destined only for hardened Le Carré fans? For pseudo-intellectuals who can read into it whatever they want? The moral of the story is, if you haven't seen it, either read the book or watch the longer BBC serialisation with Sir Alec Guinness as George Smiley. You then stand a fighting chance of coming out of the experience with a reasonable feeling that you haven't wasted your money.
Anyway, I approached this film in that way, on its own merits and I think it is very accomplished. The acting on show is first class, with turns from Firth, Hurt, Cumberbatch and Toby Jones and Tom Hardy. At the centre, Oldman is very good as the introspective, cerebral, Smiley. There is a terrific little scene early on, in a car, where there is a wasp or bee buzzing around inside the vehicle. Whereas the other occupants flap their arms around trying to shoo it away, Smiley simply watches it and calmly opens his window to let it fly out. It nicely frames the character of the man in a simple scene with no dialogue.
The identity of a spy in MI6 is slowly revealed as Smiley, methodically, pieces the clues together.
(As a side note, the lives of these people really don't seem very appealing to me at all. just a life of suspicion and subterfuge, with a bit of paranoia and loneliness thrown in, at no extra cost).
I gave it 4 stars out of 5, not as a film adaptation of a book, but as a film. It is very well made, the acting is top-notch and it has a gripping story. Ticks the boxes for me.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this film really slow and boring. There was a lot of unnecessary scenes and I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Daisy
This was not on my list to buy, but when I saw it on offer for £9.99 over a year ago, I couldn't resist. (It dropped to £7.99 recently). Read morePublished 18 days ago by vigor
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