|TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
(director: Tomas Alfredson; screenwriters: based on the
novel by John Le Carré/Bridget
O'Connor/Peter Straughan; cinematographer: Hoyt Van
Hoytema; editor: Dino Jonsater; music: Alberto Iglesias;
cast: Gary Oldman
Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam), David Dencik (Toby Esterhase), Colin Firth (Bill Haydon), Stephen Graham (Jerry Westerby), Tom Hardy (Ricki Tarr), Ciaran Hinds (Roy Bland), John Hurt (Control),
Khodchenkova (Irina), Simon McBurney (Oliver Lacon), Mark Strong (Jim Prideaux); Runtime: 120;
MPAA Rating:R; producers: Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Robyn
Slovo; Focus Features; 2011-France/UK/Germany-in English
Russian, Turkish dialogue with English subtitles)
"A top-level Le Carré espionage thriller."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
filmmaker Tomas Alfredson ("Let the Right One In") flawlessly directs
with a European sensibility John Le
1974 cold war novel, and it's turned by the
husband and wife writing team of Bridget O'Connor (the
late) and Peter Straughan into a top-level Le
thriller for the cinema. Bland Brit spy George Smiley
is recalled from his forced retirement with
MI6 to compulsively track down in
the 1970s a
mole right in the heart of the 'Circus' (MI6
informally known as the Circus). Things get
moving when Smiley receives new info about a bungled
operation from rakish rogue spy Ricki Tarr (Tom
Hardy), known as
the "scalp hunter".
prominent civil servant, the Undersecretary Oliver
Lacon (Simon McBurney), recruits Smiley and his spry
younger assistant, Peter Guillam (Benedict
Cumberbatch), to go underground to uncover which of
Smiley's ex-colleagues is the spy passing secrets to
the Russians. Peter is used to sneak documents out of the
Circus' archives. The
Americans, for one, believe what Smiley’s old boss
Control (John Hurt) had long suspected before bounced
from the service following a bungled operation in
Budapest, that a
mole--well-placed in the Circus--is passing info to
the Russians. The Hungarian operation involved tough-guy spy Jim
Prideaux (Mark Strong) tracking down a certain
Hungarian general, but getting stopped in a cafe.
Control, who has since died of a
heart attack, suspected five men. The wary spy grouped
together the four who were menacingly always together
and gave them code-names according to the old nursery
rhyme: "Tinker was used for the self-serving dour
Scottish careerist Percy Alleline (Toby Jones); "Tailor"
was used for the urbane Bill Haydon (Colin Firth);
"Soldier" was used for the gruff Roy Bland (Ciaran
Hinds); and "Poor Man" was used for the untrustworthy Hungarian
émigré Toby Esterhase
(David Dencik). The fifth was called "Beggarman" and was
Control's right-hand man, George Smiley.
The inscrutable bloodhound, Smiley, still smarting from an unhappy marriage, gets his bearings correct when he visits another cast-off colleague, the blowsy Connie Sachs (Kathy Burke), and she puts him on the trail of the Russian spy Polyakov ( Konstantin Khabensky). He turns out to be a key player in this mystery.
The ensemble cast is top-notch. The
suspense is heightened throughout. The eerie
atmosphere is fitting for the 1970s. And it's not that
easy to predict the outcome.
The pic connects with outsiders and those viewers who are disillusioned with those in power, and that after many scandals following Watergate it shows to today's viewers that even the supposedly most faithful defenders of democracy too often turn out to be unprincipled and become either traitors or corrupt officials.
REVIEWED ON 12/2/2011 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ