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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Directed by: Thomas Alfredson

Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberthatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, John Hurt, Kathy Burke, Stephen Graham.

Certificate: 15

Released: 16/09/2011

George Smiley (Oldman) is a trusted member of British Intelligence in 1970's London. When irrefutable evidence of a Soviet mole in the organisation comes to light, Smiley is set the seemingly impossible task of spying on spies to discover the identity of the traitor.

When watching the latest adaption of John Le'Carre's classic novel, three words spring to mind: Less is more.

Everything about this film is drenched in subtle under-tones, meticulous detail and quiet dignity, three qualities embodied by the central character. As with all great whodunits, the genius in Tinker Tailor is in what you don't see, or rather what is suggested rather than shown. This simple 'less is more' attitude is clearly adopted by everyone in the cast, nobody more so than Gary Oldman.

Oldman's performance is so minimalistic and so subtle, that more information is conveyed to the audience in his body language than in his speech. His posture, the slight movement in his lips and the occasional adjustment of his glasses are all we need to understand the character and what he is thinking. Smiley is our hero and our viewpoint for most of the story, and Oldman flexes his finely-tuned and often underrated acting muscles to create a character that seems detached from any emotion, yet is emotionally engaging to the audience; an achievement which will surely see him receiving many plaudits come awards season.

While this will be recognised and remembered as Oldman's film, it is a crime to forget the supporting members of the cast: an ensemble as good as any you are ever likely to see. Colin Firth's performance as the sardonic Bill Haydon may not be up to his award-winning standard, but it reminds us that he is as diverse as he is brilliant.

A future star is born in Benedict Cumberthatch, who seamlessly has made the transition from TV as the BBC's award-winning Sherlock, to the silver screen as Smiley's right-hand man  Peter Guillam. Cumberthatch shines in what is possibly the most nail-biting scenes of the film, in which he must retrieve secret files from inside British Intelligence, surrounded by suspects and superiors. 

Mark Strong provides an explosive portrayal of tragic Jim Prideaux, an agent betrayed by the mole. While his character is integral to the main plot, his journey acts as a B-Story, running parallel to Smiley's investigation and overall adding to the tone and feeling of the film.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a spy thriller for grown-ups. Gone are the gadgets, girls and unfunny one-liners, and what remains is gritty, powerful and compelling authenticity. Nothing is lost from the book or original TV mini-series, and the outcome is a modern re-telling, executed with first-class acting and a breathtaking visual style. Less is definitely more... much more. 8/10