Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

27 Sep

Boasting one of the most impressive ensemble casts in years and directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) as his first English-language film, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was one of my most anticipated films of the year and it didn’t disappoint. Gary Oldman (Léon, The Dark Knight) stars as George Smiley, a retired intelligence veteran who is thrust back into the arena to uncover a Soviet mole at the top of MI5. Make no mistake, this isn’t an action-packed thriller that is the norm in this age but rather a slow-paced, intelligent exercise in characterisation.

Oldman gives his greatest performance as Smiley, displaying a mastery of facial expressions that convey the sheer determination of his character but it make it obvious that his character isn’t afraid of manipulating others to advance his own cause. There are hints of an adventurous past, but the Smiley on display is calm and reserved. Alongside Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch gives a thrilling performance as Peter Gulliam who carries out Smiley’s dirty work. Cumberbatch gives a performance that is on par with Oldman’s, but in contrast to the latter’s relatively stoic performance he gets to lay his emotions out for all to see. During one impressive scene where Guilliam is carrying out a job for Smiley, Cumberbatch’s performance greatly enhances the tension of the scene – his nerves shaking his body, jumping at background noise.  Later, in a truly heartbreaking scene, his emotional breakdown harshly conveys the ruthlessness of the espionage world.

With great acting comes a great director and Tomas Alfredson is certainly a rising star. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is his first film since his acclaimed vampire film Let the Right One In and his first in the English language. Alfredson seems to have a knack for portraying cold, unforgiving environments and in this film he paints using tension and suspense with an impressive vigour. He has again partnered with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema with whom he worked with on Let the Right One In. Hoytema has done a commendable job and the film’s cinematography contributes a large part to the success of the film. The visuals are gorgeous – shadowy, bleak, grainy, awash with cigarette smoke and with a soft focus that perfectly compliments the world of espionage. His work makes the film a work of art.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an antithesis of the modern spy thriller and an asphyxiating work of art where Oldman and Cumberbatch’s performances stand out in the middle of the stunning British ensemble cast in a film that seems destined for awards glory.

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