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Film review: TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY from Built for Speed

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which is directed by Let the Right One In’s Thomas Alfredson is the second adaptation of the famed John Le Carre spy thriller; it was previously turned into a TV mini-series in 1979.  This film certainly has impressive credentials: it’s adapted from an acclaimed novel and features a stellar cast including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and the legendary John Hurt.

To enjoy this film, though, viewers will need to be enamoured of the story’s intricate detail and thoughtful characterizations.  For many, the slow pace, convoluted storyline and dour monochrome visual style will make it a bit if a slog.  Bursts of excitement occasionally puncture the gloom but this is definitely not for action junkies.

Oldman plays George Smiley, a character previously immortalized by Alec Guinness in the 1979 mini-series.  Smiley is like the anti-James Bond, an aging secret service bureaucrat who rarely breaks into a brisk walk let alone a gun fight.  When a special branch of the British secret service known as Circus suspects they have a Russian mole, Smiley is called upon to ferret him out.  The story splinters in numerous directions and jumps back and forth in time without the aid of captions so those unfamiliar with Le Carre’s novel may be scratching their heads.

It’s a credit to the cast particularly Oldman, Firth, Hurt and Bronson’s Tom Hardy that the film holds our attention. They lend enormous gravity to their roles as men who have given their lives to a service they now see riddled with corruption.  The grey, almost sickly looking Oldman has a touch of Sir Alec in his voice and his manner as he slowly infiltrates the sordid, blokey world of MI6.

This is a tasteful and distinguished piece of British cinema but it’s advisable to have several strong coffees beforehand.

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