Did anybody smile in London during the 70’s?
George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman, is forced back from his retirement, to find out who the mole in the Circus is. Alongside Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Mendel (Roger Lloyd-Pack), they start the search inside the “company”, ruling out one by one.
Hearing that this film is one tough-as-nails film to keep track of, I thought I’d still be all good and cool not reading any of the source material and not really being totally awake for this flick. Little did I know that I made a grave mistake.
This film is one you really have to pay attention to. Every single little line, of every single little sentence is another piece of information that adds more onto this story and mystery to where if you mis-understand what one character says, you’re lost for the most part. It’s also even harder to follow this film when you have about 100 characters with all of their code-names, things they do, what they did, what they are supposed to, position in the office, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a lot of stuff that this film throws at you but to be honest, I liked that element.
This is one of those rare films that asks you to use your brains and instead of spoon-feeding everything to you, there are times when you just have to make up assumptions for yourself. It sounds a little bit too much for some to handle, but for me, I liked this whole feel where I had no idea what was going to happen next and as the main character, Smiley, was gaining information, I felt like I was right there with him finding out just who is “THE MOLE!”. It also helps that the tone is downright glum and dark to where we know that no matter, something bad and unhappy will happen so we can never really get our hopes up.
Another way why this film works is because of director Tomas Alfredson‘s approach to this material. From the trailer and the plot summary, I was expecting a lot of talking, anger, and just all of these crazy things being thrown at me, but instead it was a lot more quiet, subtle, and slow which at first seems annoying but as time goes on, the film starts to get even more paranoid and you don’t quite know exactly what’s going to happen next. When these character do actually have words to say to one another though, they get straight to the point and never steer towards anything else like what they had for breakfast or anything. You also never know when these huge climatic moments happen either because everything goes along so smoothly and we take so much information throughout the whole film that when something big is revealed, we don’t really feel it because we are so used to be clobbered over the head with info.
This is where my biggest problem with this film comes up. The film is about 2 hours and 8 minutes long but even then it feels short with everything we get thrown at us. Don’t get me wrong, I was able to keep up with most of this but after awhile it becomes too much considering that we never really get a chance to let all of this information sink in and right as soon as it does, or at least we think it does, the film throws us another piece of info and then that’s when the headaches start to come on. The script is done perfectly by Peter Straughn and the late Bridget O’Connor but in all honesty, too much information with so little time really. Hey, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ was about 2 hours and 40 minutes, a run-time that I think that this film could have really easily benefited from in the first place.
Another problem with this film was that I felt like there wasn’t much of an emotional pay-off for anybody who was actually paying real close attention to this film. It’s not hard at all to figure out just what the hell everybody is discussing, but it’s more the fact that all of the details that we have to pay close attention to, never pay off. There are even some parts that are brought up such as a homosexual relationship between two workers which at first seemed very interesting, but for some odd reason it never gets touched upon except for just one time and then it’s just left open to us. As long as this film may be (which it didn’t feel like at all), it almost felt like there was another hour needed just for all of these story lines to be resolved, which may make sense as to why it was a mini-series in the first place anyway.
As for the cast though, what else other than perfection could you expect? I think it’s easy to say that this huge-list of British all-stars is brought together by the one and only Gary Oldman as Mr. Smiley. Just like the tone of the film, Oldman plays this role very straight-forward, very quietly, and also very understated. This shows how impressive of an actor this guy can be and this is one of the most recent performances that he’s given where he shows just why he is one of the best working actors in today’s day and age. As for all of the Oscar talk that he’s been getting as of late, I do think that he could somehow, someway sneak his little way into a nomination but there’s nothing else here that’s really “Oscar material” other than one little speech he gives, which shows his way of bringing out emotion no matter what film he’s in.
The rest of the cast here is also amazing as well. Colin Firth is great to watch as Haydon, the most charming character out of this whole film; Tom Hardy is one of the best supporting performances in this flick with his role as Ricki Tarr; it’s also a huge surprise to see Mark Strong in a flick where he doesn’t completley suck ass, but regardless he’s great here with his performance as Prideaux; and Benedict Cumberbatch also looks and acts the part of the smart-little side-kick, Guillam. There are so many other great performances given here but instead of just rambling on the whole time and dropping names left-and-right, I think I’ll just leave it at the peeps who I remembered the most from this flick.
Consensus: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy benefits from its strong cast, a whole bunch of details that add more to the mystery, and a dreary/paranoid feel that goes perfectly with its subject material, but it packs so much information and details into a time-limit of 127 minutes, that it’s almost too much for us to handle let alone get a full feel for in the end. Definitely take a 5-hour energy before going into this flick though.