Alec Guinness was already an Oscar winner when he took the role of Smiley in the BBC’s 1979 mini-series of the same name. Gary Oldman’s mesmeric performance will surely bring him the same.
Like the book, this cold war thriller unfolds like a great page turner; every line full of intrigue, betrayal and paranoia. Tinker Tailor is an intimate portrayal of an old spy forced out of the MI6 ‘family’ into early retirement, only to be invited back to find a traitor within.
All the ingredients for a spooks classic are here. There’s the secret agent locations Budapest, Istanbul, and London and there’s the Russian’s of course, but the motivations are complex and each and every character has a story, a secret. But unlike James Bond It’s never clear who the enemy is.
The film follows Smiley’s counter-espionage investigations alongside flashbacks to a party, when all the ‘family’ are together in happier times enjoying a drink and a song. A closeness is revealed by the splendid Kathy Burke’s matriarch Connie Sachs when referring to ‘all my boys’ in contrast to the distance in Smiley’s marriage.
All concrete, rain and misogyny, 1970’s England is reconstructed as period drama should be. Unlike some BBC throw together with Victorian caps and dodgy dialogue the film feels more like a relic of the time rather than a pastiche or parody.
Swedish vampire thriller Let The Right One In director Tomas Alfredson gives Tinker Tailor his distinctive patient, hesitant and utterly compelling direction. From the opening scene when John Hurt’s dishevelled controller reveals his suspicions, the agenda and pace of the film is set; each word measured and deliberate, which draws you in further.
Screenwriters Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor and director Alfredson should be congratulated for their careful handling of the source material; and casting director Jina Jay for bringing together three generations of A-list British acting talent.
The dream cast which includes Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds and Philip Brown add a real depth to this superb thriller. Relative newcomer Tom Hardy also adds menace and danger with survivor Ricki Tarr, a spy on the sharp end of the inner circles double-dealings.
But for all the acting talent on screen this is Oldman’s movie. He’s brilliantly reserved and understated but communicates so much more than his restrained dialogue allows.
But the final word goes to George Smiley with a simple but audacious finale and score; only leaving me wanting to see more of Le Carré’s old spymaster.
From Friday 16th September