Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

“For twenty-five years we’ve been the only thing standing between Moscow and the Third World War!”

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a English thriller film set in 1970s London. It stars Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight), Colin Firth (The Kings Speech), Tom Hardy (Inception), John Hurt (Brighton Rock), Toby Jones (Captain America), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement) and Ciarán Hinds (The Rite). The film is directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In).

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a remake/adaptation of the original TV series starring Alec Guinness and the 1970s novel of the same name.

Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government – which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was probably the most anticipated British film of this year. A film remake of the classic 70s TV series which starred the great Alec Guinness. Questions on most peoples mind is, does it live up to expectation? Well, I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen the original TV series nor have I read the book. But I don’t think this will hinder your view of this Cold War thriller.

Lets start with the obvious, Gary Oldman, who plays George Smiley. He’s an intelligence officer working in ‘the circus’ (MI6). Oldman is a man that is at the peak of his career, churning out superb, yet understated performances which will continue on to next years Dark Knight Rises. He is one of the best aspects of the film. It will be interesting to see if he gets any award nominations, I think certainly a BAFTA though.

Aside from Gary Oldman, the film boasts one of the best British supporting cast in any film. I mean we Colin Firth (Oscar Winner), John Hurt, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones and Benedict Cumberbatch. All are either stablished or very upcoming British stars. Out of them all though, there are a few stand out performances. Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch are all extremely well casted and do a fine job to keep the story believable, however I think Toby Jones was an underrated treat. Jones has appeared in a number of films, always unassuming roles that always keep the flow of the story.

What stood out for me though was the look of the film. The art direction have done a top notch job. It’s one of the most beautifully shot films of the year. The 1970s is richly envisaged with accurate clothing, cars and buildings. Not to mention how people acted as well. The dimly lit rooms with thick haze of cigarette smoke silhouetting the people round them, the film is just so atmospheric that you almost taste the scotch as well. A triumph in cinematography.

I really enjoyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It’s a smart British thriller that keeps you guessing. I’d say you do need to concentrate a bit as you can get easily lost with who’s accusing whom. It’s very much a slow burner as well but that adds to subtle tension and the joy you get when everything is being unravelled. Will it be an award contender? I get the feeling it could scrape some, despite how acclaimed it is.

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