Treasure…that’s the singular goal of every spy during the cold war. Treasure could mean so many things for people but here it just means information. Adapted from the classic John Le Carre novel, the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy stays faithful to the original and that is where it glitters.
This is not a glossy slick spy thriller in the James Bond or Bourne style, one of whom Le Carre despised as glamourising a drab business. This is story telling of the highest calibre, scenes shot in neutral colours, atmosphere built through the unsaid, to draw out the nuances of the 70’s, characters fleshed out with care, dialogues with purpose and a plot.
For a lot of today’s generation, the ominous years of the Cold War have no relevance. Men in trench coats and honey traps being replaced with religious zealots and suicide bombers. And that’s where the movie scores, it seamlessly slips you into the world of teletexts and moles. Where intelligence is based on evidence and not mobile phone conversations, where files are stored in rooms and not hard-drives and where spies spied based on ideology.
The actors are easily recognisable, most of them having worked in the Harry Potter franchise. Gary Oldman is brilliant as the protagonist, George Smiley, having been coaxed out of his forced retirement to take on the challenge of finding a super Russian mole within the highest echelons of the ‘Circus’ as MI6 is known. There is a whimsey about his approach and his mannerisms, drawing you further in the movie, transporting you to the 70’s. John Hurt and Colin Firth are a fine supporting cast, fleshing out their parts with typical British style, no over the top theatricals here. Mark Strong who some may recognise as the villain from the first Sherlock Holmes movie puts in a fine performance as the disillusioned former spy, whose sense of betrayal eventually overrides all bonds. Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Sherlock in the BBC serial has a key role as Smiley’s associate, essaying his role well.
The plot would seem a bit complicated if one has not read the book, but this is a movie not to be watched as an after thought. It is to be enjoyed with a whiskey in your hand and no interruptions. For that is when the stillness of the movie draws you in, and suddenly the 70’s don’t seem so far back…
A must see, highly recommended watch.