“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Movie Review


     "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is a British spy film based on the novel by John Le Carre.  Taking place in the Cold War era, the story centers on a retired MI6 agent who is brought back by the agency to uncover a Soviet mole within the ranks.  In stark contrast to say a Bond film, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" contains no action to speak of and is probably the most reserved spy "thriller" you will ever see.  The characters walk from place to place and say very little.  It seems we are seeing them in some sort of thinking mode for most of the film and there is always a cigarette and a glass of whiskey in everyone's hand at all times.  These agents must live one hell of a stressful life since they always seem in need of these alleged stress relievers.  The majority of the characters are older and it's surprising any of them have lived as long as they have with these habits of theirs.

     The film boasts an impressive cast that includes Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy.  The credentials these men bring alone should have made for a great film, yet director Tomas Alfredson moves things along at a snails pace and the script by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan leaves the characters with nothing really interesting to say.  Now I'm sure in real life this is what espionage looks like, but with the possibility of nuclear war at the forefront, you would think Alfredson could have created more intensity.  Not a single scene in the film stood out to me.  No defining moment.  No line of quotable dialogue.  Just a group of old washed up looking men sitting at a table in an air tight sound proofed room having a mostly nonverbal chess match with each other as if to see who will blink first.  The characters refer to their agency as "the Circus", yet the proceedings remain stagnant for the entire picture.

     In the film's plot, there isn't an obvious "cat and mouse" game going on between Smiley (Oldman) and the other players, one of which is the mole.  Alfredson shows a lot of flashback cut within the investigation and it makes the story hard to follow.  You also really only get to know Smiley, but none of the other important characters.  In fact, the ending is so anticlimactic that you are left unsurprised and emotionless when the mole is finally caught.  There is nothing ingenious about Smiley nor are the consequences of not finding the mole laid out.  You get the idea it doesn't really matter either way.

     To condemn this film is not to say films of this genre need to contain mindless action.  There is always a welcome place for an intelligent thriller, but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy simply does not deliver.  If anything, you get a solid premise and a believable setting with actors who are at the top of their game.  Gary Oldman gives his usual excellent performance and is certainly a positive by default.  Wasted is last year’s Best Actor winner Colin Firth who mutters through his role and isn’t given anything meaty to work with.  Tom Hardy is also excellent, but he was better in “Warrior” where he was able to show off his physical ability, as well as his acting ability.  Unfortunately, nothing they say or do is memorable and rarely makes any sense.  If you sat through "The Tree of Life" last year, than your basically looking at its British cousin here.  Dare I say this is a supreme waste of talent and an interesting premise?  Perhaps it's a cultural thing I'm missing where this is what's expected of a British spy thriller, but if that's the case than "007" really has missed the mark all of these years.  I love dialogue driven films, but this one left me cold.  GRADE: D