DIRECTOR: Tomas Alfredson
May Contain Spoilers!
I don’t really know what the initial appeal of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy was, besides what was clearly going to be another one of Gary Oldman’s great performances. But this was clearly a film which was outside my comfort zone. A dark, dingy look at the world of Cold War intelligence agencies in the early 1970’s. I’ve wanted to see a film represent spies in a more grounded way without flashy technology, gadgets and action set pieces, and this certainly met that criteria, with seemingly real people doing a very real and down to earth job.
No James Bond, no glamour just a dark underworld of mistrust, lies, loyalty and disloyalty. It felt real and the tone was ever more so, but whilst the aesthetic was wonderful and possibly the most perfectly pitched tone that I’ve ever seen in this genre, even down to the community centre hall look of the Christmas party, which was as much an authentic works do as I”ve ever seen on film.
But this wasn’t just down to the expert production design, this was a cast lead project, lead by an immense ensemble lead by Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy, to just name a few. The story is simple in the sense that it is structured around George Smiley’s (Oldman) mole hunt so in the end, it’s a who dunnit, and even though I felt I knew who it probably was all the way through, the reveal was left as something of an anti-climax, as if it didn’t really matter.
The main reason for that is that it’s not really about a mole hunt, nor the Cold War. This is about the sub-strata of which these men live a work, a world moving on from real wars, such as World War 2 and has ended up engulfed in an almost nondescript Cold War, a war of games and distrust, and one perfect for espionage and spies, rather than soldiers. Does this war spill over and corrupt the very institutions which are placed to fight it?
My only real issues with this film were the fact that this isn’t the sort of film that would thrill me, and that the aesthetic threatened to overwhelm the plot which to me, was bore out by my lack of interest in who the mole actually was, yet I was much more drawn into the details and machination of the plot. It looks fantastic, due to the cinematography, direction and in no small part to acting talents of Gary Oldman and absolutely EVERY member of the cast, with not a single week link. This is possibly the best ensemble piece that I’ve seen to date.
This was a throw back to the spy thrillers of the 70’s yet being so with these heavyweight elements and a true sense of the time without feeling forced or cliché’s in the same way as L.A. Confidential’s 1950’s setting did back in 1997.
Recommended but don’t expect thrills, or even that much intrigue. This is a human drama if ever there was one.