Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

23 01 2012

When watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, you’re going to want to do one of two things: press the fast forward button, or press the rewind button.

Those who enjoy it will want to rewind to catch up on any scenes that they may have missed, while those who dislike it will be waiting a tortuously long time for the movie to end.

Most spy movies (I’m looking at you, James Bond and Jason Bourne) have lots of guns, girls, car chases, and explosions. Unfortunately, the real world of espionage isn’t quite as entertaining. Instead of constant action, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy features middle-aged men sitting in a soundproofed room arguing whose source is better.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy movie review

Shut up. My source is better.

Obviously, each type of movie has its audience, and if you’re not willing to sit through 2 hours of dialogue – as good as that dialogue may be – then you shouldn’t see this movie.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on a 1974 novel by John Le Carré. It’s the Cold War, and there is a mole within the very upper ranks of Britain’s MI6 spy agency. A former spy, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), is brought out of retirement in order to investigate.

Since the mole is supposedly placed in the very highest echelon of MI6, it can only be one of four different people. These men are code-named Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, and Poor Man. Smiley’s investigation forces him to revisit his past, and the plot twists and turns, and then twists some more, to eventually reach its conclusion.

It’s the kind of movie that rewards those who pay close attention and harshly punishes those who don’t. Brief, five-second scenes can have a profound impact on your understanding of the plot, and you can’t afford to let your mind wander.

Turning a classic novel into a 2-hour film is undoubtedly a challenge, which explains why the film version is so densely plotted. Where other directors might have lengthened it to 2.5 or 3 hours, Tomas Alfredson is able to squeeze it all into a relatively short timeframe.

Gary Oldman’s performance deserves to be mentioned, and his portrayal of the lead character, Smiley, is completely convincing. Smiley doesn’t speak very often, and the audience is forced to rely on minute facial expressions and body language in order to fully appreciate the character.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was released in a selected number of North American theatres a few weeks ago, and the general release was delayed until this past weekend. After watching it, I can understand why: while it will appeal to some people, modern audiences may be frustrated by its slow pacing and unforgiving plot density.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy movie review

Ultimately, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a movie that you will either love or hate. If you pay enough attention to understand what is going on, then you will be rewarded with a powerful character piece and an engaging, intelligent storyline.

If, on the other hand, your attention lapses for a few minutes, and you suddenly have no idea why anybody is doing anything, then you’re going to wish you had seen a movie like Haywire or Contraband tonight. Like I said, each movie has its audience.

In an age where studios often choose glitzy and brainless movies over powerful and intelligent ones, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a refreshing change from the norm. If you feel like giving your brain a bit of a workout, then Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one to watch.

4 stars out of 5