Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Full of mystery, excitement and intrigue, espionage films are usually a genre that is pretty easy to get behind so it’s with great disappointment that TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY failed to fully deliver.
Intelligence officer George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is called out of retirement during the Cold War to find a Russian mole among one of the four top-ranking officers from the British Secret Intelligence Service. This simple explanation is enough to peak interest especially with the likes of, in this writer’s humble opinion, one of our greatest living character actors, Gary Oldman in the lead role. Yet what ended up on screen was a fairly boring look at a slow and sometimes confusing plot.
From the beginning to the end, the entire process moves far too slowly. I found myself restless and fidgeting as I waited for the story to progress. I love a good dialogue driven film as much as the next but without much action that dialogue needs to be fluid and understandable. In fact, there wasn’t always a lot of dialogue either but rather continuous shots of a man thinking or observing. I was surprised an hour into the film when I felt as though nothing had been achieved and I didn’t care about any of the characters.
The second half of the film picks up in pace and the plot finally is able to unravel when a rogue agent (Tom Hardy) in hiding is discovered and Smiley uses the help of a younger agent (Benedict Cumberbatch) to obtain some classified information. However, due to some obvious casting choices, the mole is a predictable answer. But while realizing early on who the culprit is most assuredly going to be, the bigger downfall is the lack of suspense or all around care the film provides toward it’s storyline.
Since directing one of my favorite films from 2009 with LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, I was eagerly anticipating Tomas Alfredson’s next project. After tackling a horror film in such a uniquely thrilling way, I would have thought a suspense thriller about weeding out a spy would be a cinch. Sadly, the result wasn’t near as exciting. Perhaps it’s my fault I never fully understood every aspect of the film but the fact that I didn’t care afterwards is definitely the fault of the filmmakers.
In spite of all my criticism, I didn’t hate the film. The cinematography, art direction and costume are all superb. Grasping the period and profession, the entire look and feel of the picture is presented perfectly. If I were basing my opinion on that alone I would give TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY the highest marks. Unfortunately, even if you hit right on every other mark, a picture cannot succeed without telling the story in a compelling way.