The interiors of this latest adaptation of John Le Carré’s 1973-set novel look and feel like just like the those of the BBC’s recent drama series, The Hour, set in their 1956 newsroom. Even the plots are alike – there’s a Russian spy in our very English midst, which one is he (it’s never gonna be a she)?
The main clues as to which era we’re in are found outside – the odd black or Asian person popping up in the corner of a frame, a girl in hotpants, the lovely cars. Inside the Circus [the highest level of British intelligence], though, it’s all closed and brownish and peopled by grey men. The Cold War is still very much on, and this film sets the scene expertly.
In the aftermath of the shooting of a Circus agent, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), during a botched Hungarian mission, retired agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman, who uses stillness like a weapon throughout) is brought in to root out a possible Soviet double agent in the Circus ranks. Spies being duplicitous and such, it’s not an easy task ; beware the red herrings.
Tinker, Tailor does feel a little slow in the middle, but it seems churlish to complain, when we’ve already been served with two pre-credits deaths, some heavy breathing from Tom Hardy as renegade agent Ricki Tarr, who falls for the wife of a Moscow centre intelligence officer, and an amazingly unlikeable Colin Firth. Perhaps Smiley’s investigation could have been sped up a little, and more flashbacks could have been added – seeing as the scenes from the botched Hungarian job and its aftermath hold the most important clues.
One more criticism – George’s unfaithful wife, Ann, is a total cipher. For someone who seems to have a pivotal, yet off-stage role, it is genius to not show us her face or let us hear her voice, but perhaps the other characters could fill us in on her a bit? Why does she keep leaving him? Perhaps, though, that’s for later in the trilogy.
The acting is as strong as would be expected from the very impressive cast, with Oldman ably carrying the narrative through potentially confusing twists, and slowly gaining a real malevolence over the course of the film. It’s a useful development for him – he really needs it for the haunting dénouement.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, in cinemas 16th September, has launched a world exclusive featurette that includes interviews with the film’s key cast, director and John le Carré on its official website: http://www.tinker-tailor-soldier-spy.com/
Find the code word on the site, then head to the basement level where you’ll be rewarded with a world exclusive featurette and the opportunity to win tickets to the UK Premiere of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.