Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Based on the acclaimed cold war novel by John LeCarre, this cerebral thriller is more wordplay than gunplay and features an outstanding cast of pedigree British actors. Gary Oldman is "Oscar" perfect as George Smiley, the retired spy asked to find a mole at the top of British Intelligence in the early 70's. With unerring restraint, Smiley goes methodically about his work barely raising his voice or even lifting a finger. Dare I say, Mr. Oldman gives Sir Alec Guinness (who created the role in the original mini-series) a run for his money.

The film co-stars John Hurt as "Control" and Colin Firth, Toby Jones and Ciaran Hinds as fellow intelligence officers. Also in key roles are Tom Hardy and Mark Strong doing some of their best work to date. One actor I'm not familiar with is Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Smiley's assistant. This is his largest role so far in a young career and he is quite good. You expect great work from this ensemble and they don't disappoint.

Director Thomas Alfredson does a splendid job recreating the time period and there isn't a false note anywhere in the film. The one thing it does lack is warmth but then again, this was still the "cold war" and the British didn't coin the phrase "stiff upper lip" for nothing. The film feels as cold and calculating as it's characters and yet, it's totally appropriate to the story.

Don't expect gunfights and explosions. This is by no means, "James Bond" but rather a grandmaster matching wits with his opponent in an tense chess match. It's a complex, yet entertaining film that an audience should happily give it's full attention.

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