Anthony's Film Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

John le Carré's classic spy novel comes to life in a pretty good film adaptation...

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film based on a well-known spy novel by John le Carré, is interesting because of its antagonist. Usually, when you think of spy stories, you think of a protagonist working on behalf of one country against another, as with James Bond versus the Soviet Union. But here, the allied and enemy organization are almost one and the same. That's because the story centers on a mystery involving a Soviet mole who has successfully infiltrated British intelligence, becoming one of its highest ranking officers.

In fact, there is an insulting nickname for the top of the organization: the Circus. Several characters use this term, including retired spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman), the protagonist of this story, who had been dismissed from British intelligence many years ago. He is a man whose face is stiff like stone. Though it's hard to tell whether he is harboring anger towards the Circus, he definitely looks like someone who has seen it all so that nothing surprises him anymore. It is this man who is asked to look into the possibility that there is a Soviet mole inside the Circus.

Another thing that makes Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy interesting is the approach to solving the mystery. Because Smiley does not actually have access to top secret records in the British intelligence archives, he has to rely on a currently employed spy named Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch). In doing so, Smiley interviews three different former spies, all of whom had gotten close to finding the mole but failed. One is Connie Sachs (Kathy Burke), who looks like an ordinary middle-aged woman but had once found something suspicious with a Soviet defector. The second is Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy), who had first spied on a Russian man before helping the man's battered wife defect to the West. The third is Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), a schoolteacher who years ago had gotten shot on a mission to identify the mole.

Once Smiley listens to these stories, he has to root out the mole, which is likely one of four men in the Circus: Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik). What makes it hard to spot the mole is how these officers, even the ones who truly are on the side of England, seem like selfish arrogant scoundrels. This is another thing that presents the friendly organization as an enemy organization. It also gives the story a somewhat cynical tone, which is what John le Carré's stories seem to be known for.

The story, I will say, does seem to be broken into segments, because in between are shots of characters moving from one point to another. At times, you have to wait until the interesting dialogue finally takes place. Still, I will say that I liked Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for its creative story and for the somewhat gloomy atmosphere it takes place in. On top of this, Gary Oldman's performance as Smiley is worth noting, not because of how well he shows emotion but how well he doesn't. He brings a mysterious vibe to Smiley, while at the same time presenting the character as someone who will get the job done. And on that note, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy gets the job done as an engaging spy drama.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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