4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Stonkingly good film,
This review is from: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy [DVD]  (DVD)
It is fair to say that I am a fan of John Le Carre's masterpiece, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I have read the book, I love the TV series with Alec Guinness and thoroughly enjoyed the recent radio adaptation with Simon Russell Beale. And now, finally, there is a film. And what an amazingly good film it is!
The plot is simple, there is a Russian mole in British intelligence. Retired spy George Smiley is drafted in by the powers that be to examine the service from the outside with an insider's eye to try and find the mole. But it's so much more than this simple two sentence summary conveys. The book and the film are all about atmosphere. The atmosphere of the paranoid intelligence world of the early seventies, at the height of the cold war. And this film produces that atmosphere in spades.
Gary Oldman is an impressive Smiley. He spends the first quarter of an hour looking slightly confused and bumbling, then as he gets involved in the mystery you see that this is just a facade, and that there is an incisive and sharply intelligent mind behind the mask. He portrays a ruthless and cunning Smiley, but who rarely reveals himself as such and has a huge impact when he does become commanding and authoritative. It's different to those that have portrayed Smiley in the past, but still the essential character and a truly exceptional performance that really carries the film.
The film moves at a gentle pace, with an ever increasing sense of urgency, paranoia and danger as it heads towards the climax. There is no Bond style derring do here, just the careful gathering of evidence while trying to remain unobserved. The film is presented in a series of snapshots and remembrances, never quite giving the whole story. It's impressive as it seems slightly jumbled and incomplete, but you still get the sense of the story. It seems done in this way to give you the story in the way that Smiley gets it, fragments of information to be built into a complete picture that will reveal the mole.
Obviously in trying to condense such a complex book into 2 hours much has been lost and changed, but the changes serve to make the story sensible without too much exposition, and the cuts do not really damage the story. With one exception. I felt that the four main suspects (Allenine, Bland, Haydon and Esterhaze) were not sufficiently fleshed out and the reasons for suspecting each explored. The film has sacrificed a lot of the sense of character for the sake of plot and atmosphere, and I strongly felt that a little more character development would have made it truly amazing.
All in all, an exceptionally good film, well worth watching for anyone who enjoys intelligent cinema with a sense of atmosphere. I loved it, 5 stars.