Upon first viewing of the trailer for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I was filled with excitement at the potential that this film promised. With direction from Tomas Alfredson, director of Let the Right One In (the original version), and a talented cast, including the up and coming Tom Hardy, the superb Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, and of course Gary Oldman in the lead, there was no doubt that this film would impress on some level.
This is an adaption of John Le Carré’s novel of the same name, having previously been adapted for television. It is set in the 1970s during the Cold War, focusing on the Circus (MI6), and the search for a mole within it. George Smiley (Oldman) is assigned to root out this mole, and the film follows his investigation. However, the plot goes into far more depth than this, interweaving various threads and set pieces that provide a diverse and expansive overview of the many relationships and personalities within this story, covering various themes and issues amongst the characters that affect the film’s progression.
The performances are impressive, with Oldman providing a fantastic rendition of the observant and perceptive Smiley, along with Hardy as the wild and more emotionally charged intelligence agent. The film is very conscious of its style, painted with dark, drab and decaying colours, symbolising the environment in which it is set, and adding a certain feel and intensity to the viewing.
This film may be labelled slow-paced, and it is true that this is no standard action film, lacking the usually depicted lavish world of espionage that features high budget explosions and car chases. Instead, this is a grittier exploration of the secret services. Alfredson uses long shots to maintain the intensity throughout, and although at times it feels slightly self-indulgent, especially with the repetition of certain scenes, it is for the most part very successful, producing an almost hypnotic effect for the audience, heightening a feeling of anticipation. The non-linear storytelling and contrast between various aspects of the story are also refreshing, breaking up the focus on the web of intrigue by delving into the personal lives of each of the characters.
It must be emphasised that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does not place all its importance upon its conclusion. Instead it is more focused on the progression of the various interweaving narratives that reveal insights into each of the characters and the dynamic of the Circus. It is both an intelligent and stylish film which provides a satisfying and intricate story with many intriguing levels.