Release Date: December 9, 2011 (NY, LA; limited: December 16)
Studio: Focus Features
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Screenwriter: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
Starring: Gary Oldman, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Svetlana Khodchenko
MPAA Rating: R (for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language)
Official Website: TTSSmovie.com
In the middle of the 20th century, the effects of the Cold War continue to damage British internal relations. The United Kingdom stands on the brink of loosing itself and struggles with security while attempting to stay on par with the rest of the world and their efforts in espionage.
Jim Prideaux is sent into Hungary by the Circus (Known as Control) on a secret mission. But like all good Spy stories, the mission goes horribly wrong, and George Smiley (Played by Gary Oldman) is sent in to save the day with his keen wit and unequaled detective skills.
Much to the dismay of the British government, Smiley is secretly brought back on board with the Governments secret service unit, specifically to uncover the “mole” hidden within the ranks, endangering England by working as a double agent for the Soviet Union. While going through the motions of his assignment, Smiley is haunted with his past and is forced to confront the details one by one.
Murders and dirty work unfold as the script progresses, certain to get your blood pumping and heart racing. Even before the inevitable truth is unveiled, however, it’s the involvment and history of each character which truly makes this film the best of 2012.
John le Carré’s 1974 novel reeks of mistrust, twists and turns, and a plot driven by anonymity and uncertainty. Before walking into the theatre, I never imagined that a modern-day thriller could have a script so well written that it could beat out some of the greatest films to come out in the last few decades. No doubt, TTSS requires all of it’s viewers to pay CLOSE attention to every detail, which can be a bit trying…but the end result of all that hard thinking will result in one of the most rewarding movie going experiences in the history of independent film making.
Tomas Alfredson (a Swedish director who’s most recent accomplishment was a vampire center story titled “Let the Right One In”) took hold of an idea never meant for the big screen and completes it with flying colors. TTSS is swarming with personality, tension, and teeth grinding moments, with a mystery that will have you guessing until the very end. Let me be completely honest with you, I am NOT a fan of spy movies, but this film grabbed me like no other film I can remember seeing has.
From what I can tell, Alfredson had a daunting task before him. Le Carré’s novel is far from being an EASY read, verging on being so complex that it becomes confusing. The greatest challenge with TTSS is undoubtedly making sure everything important is included in the script. Otherwise we, the movie goers, will have nothing to grab onto. But even more importantly, the task of making all of that important information uncontrived and flow well is even more jolting for any director and screen writer. How does one compress such a complex story into something tangible while keeping what made le Carré’s book so fantastic? What ISN’T spoken is just as imporant, (if not more important) as what IS spoken.
I think it was put best by cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytema, with his brief one lined review of film, ”It is a melancholic world set in small rooms, drenched in nicotine and bureaucratic sweat.” Everything that this stellar cast radiates from their performance is soaked into everything surrounding them. It’s an amazing accomplishment of cinematography, paying respect to the time period this story comes out of without sacrificing the importance of the cinematic beauty of the cities, rooms, and physical objects.
As already stated, the casting is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I always praise the Harry Potter franchise at having one of the most expertly chosen casts in film history, but TTSS might have just beat it out. Mark Strong presents a very strong and powerful portrayal of Jim Prideaux,even though it’s very brief. Colin Firth, as always, shows the best performance possible in a supporting actor role, with John Hurt giving us his usual (and all too familiar) role of the creepy leader of a questionable organization.
Gary Oldman, on the other hand, was amazing as he was surprising as the pick to play George Smiley. So often do we see him playing these exceptionally animated and energized characters, it was very pleasant to see him play a character who’s quite stiff. Oldman’s depiction of Smiley is not as the name implies; almost antisocial, tired, without the appearance of any ambition, and maintaining a grey undertone to his already faded personality. Despite these aspects to Smiley’s character, Oldman gives a certain amount of life and respect to his role, making him a joy to watch as he uncovers the mystery, piece by piece.
I won’t attempt at explaining the plot in any more detail than what’s already stated above. To do so would take too much time and be quite cumbersome. No doubt, however, this film is as complex as it is amazing. Granted, it isn’t for everyone, and the reviews have shown it hasn’t been as well received as the hype was hoping for it. But for me, it was nice to see a well written thriller that was reliant on the kind of eye covering moments found in films like Black Swan. I could sit back and soak in every last detail as it drove my intrigued and yearning for the unveiling of the culprit.
Is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a movie I’ll want to own on DVD? You bet! Is it a film that I would recommend to all my friends? Yes indeed! This film represents the very best of cinema and movie going experiences. While it may not be a movie I’ll want to watch as frequently as I do Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or many of the comic book films that have come out in the last 15 years, I can honestly say, without a shred of doubt in me, that this is the greatest spy movie ever made and one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life time.
10 out of 10 stars