Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

By Kenneth Hutchison

Seeing this last week reminded me that, every now and again, a director will make a film that you really need to work to keep up with. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is such a film: and it’s not for the faint hearted.

The plot follows John le Carré’s novel of the same name, as agents of M16 attempt to locate a mole inside the organisation. Gary Oldman plays George Smiley: a jaded intelligence officer charged with unravelling the Russian infiltrator, after he and his mentor ‘Control’ (John Hurt) are forced out of ‘The Circus’ (M15’s command centre). He finds himself pitted against Percy Alledine (Toby Jones) and Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), who have their own ideas on how to keep the country’s secrets secret.

Thomas Alfredson’s movie is skillfully woven together, held together by fine acting from all present. Oldman plays a severely understated secret agent: he isn’t glamorous, he isn’t particularly good or evil, and he most certainly isn’t James Bond. He is, however, good at his job, giving little away and taking everything in.

My only criticism is that the movie is about fifteen minutes too long (lots of looking into the middle distance, reminiscing), and it might be a tough one for the average cinemagoer to follow without a fairly extensive understanding of Cold War politics. There is some graphic violence, and a couple of sex references, but nothing too shocking to the average 15 year old. It’s a thriller without being a thriller, slow paced and complicated, but rewarding and satisfying at the same time.