By Ryan Casey
Having previously been adapted in the form of a mini TV series starring Alec Guinness, John Le Carre’s novel has its turn on the big screen. The initial signs for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy were positive as it offered a stylish look with an in-depth aura of intrigue. However, the movie’s key selling point is its impressive cast, which consists of the who’s who of British acting talent.
The story is set during the Cold War and centres on the efforts of a semi-retired espionage veteran called George Smiley (Gary Oldman) as he attempts to uncover a Soviet mole that has been leaking crucial intelligence to the enemy from the very top level of MI6. The somewhat tragic figure of Smiley is put to this task by his mentor and head of British secret intelligence, the character known as Control played by John Hurt. It was Control who first recognises the existence of the mole and that his identity could only be one of the five agents to which he works closest with.
Only having a limited amount of people to place his trust, Smiley has to deploy all his wit, cunning and experience to identify the traitor, whose web of lies and deceit threatens the very existence of MI6 and the sustainability of the United Kingdom against the Soviet threat.
Starting with the positives; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an extremely well made movie, its period settings, mise-en-scene and music score, depicts an authentic and therefore believable image of 1970's Britain. The manner in which the movie is filmed and edited is simple, yet aids to the pacing and intrigue of the narrative.
The key protagonists are played with a subtle poise and confidence that help profile these characters of great importance as plausible normal personas, which shy away from the exaggerated James Bond model of the secret agent. Performances of note include John Hurt as the disgruntled leader Control, Gary Oldman as the under-whelming detective Smiley, Mark Strong as agent Jim Prideoux and Tom Hardy who plays the in-experienced and naïve Ricki Tarr, amongst others.
In all honesty, I was always confident that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy would deliver on story, and with Oldman, Hurt, Firth, Strong, Hardy and company all doing their thing, I thought it couldn’t possibly go wrong. Unfortunately I was left feeling slightly disappointed. If you have a short concentration span and you like things explained in black and white, then this isn’t the film for you. On the other hand if you like to be mystified to the extent where events are near on impossible to understand, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy fits the bill.
This movie is definitely worth a watch it has a substance and style, but if you prefer your secret agents much simpler, then there’s always ‘Johnny English Reborn’ coming out. 3.5 Stars out of 5.