Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/09/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 127 mins

Impressively directed and brilliantly shot, this is a gripping spy story with a satisfyingly intelligent script, some superb production design work and terrific performances from a wonderful ensemble cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on the novel by John LeCarre and set in 1973, at the height of Cold War paranoia. When an agent (Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux) is shot while on a mission in the USSR, Control (John Hurt) realises that there must be a Russian mole in British intelligence and narrows it down to four colleagues - Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), Percy Allenine (Toby Jones) and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) – and asks loyal agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to investigate.

Smiley duly recruits fellow agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help out and the pair begin a multi-layered investigation that seems to involve rogue agent Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy), who fell in love with a Russian woman (Svetlana Khabenskiy) while undercover behind the Iron Curtain.

The Good
The mouth-watering ensemble cast are uniformly excellent, particularly Hardy (whose lengthy flashback sequence is one of several highlights), Strong (notably in his relationship with a lonely young boy), Firth (clearly enjoying himself as the bitter, omni-sexual Haydon) and Cumberbatch, who more or less anchors the film with a solid turn as Guillam. Similarly, it's a treat to see Oldman in a role that doesn't involve chewing the scenery and he duly delivers an unshowy yet utterly compelling performance as Smiley.

The intelligent script is densely packed with detail and rewards paying close attention, even if it's actually quite exhausting to do so. Similarly, the brown-tinged 1970s production design is grubbily impeccable, augmented by stunning cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema (who also shot Alfredson's Let the Right One In).

The Great
Alfredson's direction is assured throughout, allowing the pieces of information to fit together slowly like an exceedingly complex jigsaw puzzle where you don't see the whole picture until the final piece is played. He also orchestrates some terrific sequences, such as Guillam attempting to pinch some files from under the noses of his colleagues and a heart-stopping follow-up scene that hinges on the inspired use of George Formby's Mr. Wu's a Window Cleaner Now.

On top of that, Alfredson makes some fascinating and daring choices, such as the decision not to show the faces of two key characters.

Worth seeing?
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an impressively directed, refreshingly intelligent spy thriller with a superb script and terrific performances from a note-perfect ensemble cast. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 04:44

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