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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy | The Clapper Bored

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

On about three separate occasions during the production of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (no freakin’ commas already!) we, the world, sat up and went ‘hmm, that’ll probably be good.’ The first was the appointment of Swedish director (and, dare I say it, ‘auteur’) Thomas Alfredson, the second was when the phenomenal cast list was announced and the third was when they released a trailer that really upped the stakes. Having been released we can all nod smugly and say ‘yes, we were right’. The whole film is a master-stroke.

Basic plot: There’s a mole (right at the top of the Circus…) and Sirius Black has to sniff him out. As a fan of the novel, but someone who hasn’t seen the revered Alec Guinness TV adaptation, there are significant changes made. But these are tactful and inevitable because, after all, it’s one of the most labyrinthine of spy thrillers. But calling it a thriller is like referring to Alfredson’s previous film, Let the Right One In, as a horror movie. There are no car chases, cocktails or foreign locations (although Istanbul enjoys one dreamy flashback) but a whole bunch of slightly sour aging men sitting in egg crated rooms and pouting about ‘double agents’ and whatever happened in Budapest.

The casting is spectacularly right. Gary Oldman, though not physically similar to the Smiley of the book, gives the role all the quiet strength it requires. Colin Firth, he of superior career decisions, is wonderful as Tailor Bill. Toby Jones, naturally a better fit for Smiley, channels the ghost of Gordon Brown as Tinker Percy and John Hurt is everything you could possibly want from Control. The young ones have some fun as well most notably Mark Strong (branching out from every scowly role available), Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy. That’s not to mention the fact that they all seem to be having tremendous fun acting alongside one another- it must be fun being awesome.

But the steely menace comes primarily from Alfredson’s Scandinavian infused direction. Alfredson has reunited with Let the Right One In cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (who also shot the far-more-interesting-looking-than-it-ought The Fighter) to bring the frost to a film that relies on infrequent cuts (certainly for a thriller) and a constantly slowly moving camera. The genius of never seeing Karla or Ann is not to be underplayed in this age of ‘show rather than tell’ and the 70’s palate that seems drawn from the faltering exhaust of Jim Prideaux’s old Alvis is a marvel. Truly this is one of the most visually exciting films to watch and is one where, unlike recent 3D and VFX releases, the director’s vision hasn’t been eaten away at by studio requirements.

Tinker Tailor et al is one of the best films of this year and, unlike The King’s Speech, a film that is as visually arresting as it is well plotted and performed.

Title: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Director: Thomas Alfredson
Starring: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, David Dencik, Ciarin Hinds, Kathy Burke, Roger Lloyd Pack, Toby Jones
Certificate: 15
Running Time: About 2 hours

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