Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

director: Thomas Alfredson

writers: Bridgette O'Connor & PeterStraughan

starring: Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, John Hurt, and Ciaran Hinds

genre: Spy

released: 16 September, 2011 (U.K.)

If only now and again, they made more old fashioned films. It's a nice alternative when somebody even bothers to make something slow, intelligent, where your brain eventually has to work. Spy films of late, have come out to be films about Tom Cruise's running skills or silly takes on spies in more humorous manner. Tinker Tailor Soldier What? Doesn't redefine the genre, it may not have people running and jumping out of windows, but it has suspense and logic.


In the Cold War era, the spy game is at its heights of deception and espionage. The high British intelligence service the "Circus" is on the prowl for intelligence and want the upper hand against the Russians and their master spy "Karla". When the head of Circus Control (John Hurt) finds out of a possible Russian mole within the service, things start to go into disarray for the Circus. Its up to Control's right hand man Mr. Smiley (Gary Oldman) to find the mole and bring some respect back to the Circus.


Why I might mention that the film feels old fashioned you may ask. It’s due to the fact that it doesn’t play to the beats, that a normal audience would expect it to go. It doesn’t start at the beginning of the story, it doesn’t fill you in on the story, and it makes you work for it. As if you’re a spy yourself, digging for information and you receive it the way the protagonist also does. Through research and findings (also flashbacks). This "backwards" method of not telling a story through exposition, but through flashback and findings. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. The problem is our brains get tired to easily. Were used fast cut, fast paced action. But when the dialogue is fast paced and in depth. Were goners.

The film has gotten some attention for Gary Oldman's performance. It really is the most tone downed minimalist performance of the year. You've been used Oldman shouting in iconic roles, or being overtly dramatic. Here his performance is in his posture, his eyes, and the way he masters through all the scenes with only his words. He lives and breathes being the master of all spy's. He doesn’t have to shout or present himself as the alpha male amongst his fellow colleagues. He is the man above them all. Because he's smarter than everyone else in the end.

Now where the film falls a bit short, is in its script. It’s a adaption of a book, that has been called too big in length to be ever adapted really well for film. There are signs of this, throughout the film. You do feel as things are condensed, and that you don't get enough from all the players in the story. You just get enough, so the story moves along, just to get to the end point. It's as if they didn't try to get the most out of the book, but settled for the essence of the story and sacrificed the juice of it, which 


When there is overt scale of spy films that have men do impossible feats. It’s nice to see a change in the formula. "Tinker Tailor Bla Bla" is a very good spy film that makes us remember of older times. Where films needed to possess performances and story, more than spectacles and explosions. So check it out and your time won’t be wasted.

Personal Rating:


review by Paul Katsaros

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