Sus­pi­cious minds

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

RE­VIEW

TINKER TAI­LOR SOL­DIER SPY ( MA15+)

★★★★■ Di­rec­tor: To­mas Al­fred­son ( Let the Right One In ) Stars: Gary Old­man, Colin Firth, Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Ciara ´ n Hinds, John Hurt

The spy who came in from the 1970s FAMED es­pi­onage nov­el­ist John le Carre has likened mak­ing a movie from his touch­stone work Tinker Tai­lor Sol­dier Spy to ‘‘ turn­ing a cow into a bouil­lon cube’’.

Let the record show that while the sheer bulk of le Carre’s book has been thinned for the big screen, the com­plex ar­ray of flavours re­mains in­tact.

Those with a re­fined palate for chal­leng­ing, in­tel­li­gent and charis­matic sto­ry­telling should unashamedly gorge them­selves on the feast pre­sented here.

Tinker Tai­lor is hardly your typ­i­cal cloak- and- dag­ger, run- gun- and- stun spy movie. In fact, this is hardly your typ­i­cal movie, full stop.

I mean, here we have a thriller where the main pro­tag­o­nist does not even ut­ter a word for his first 20 min­utes of screen time. And when vet­eran spy Ge­orge Smi­ley ( Gary Old­man) does fi­nally elect to break his si­lence, it is only to let some­one know he is no longer a work­ing spook.

How­ever, it will be in his re­tire­ment that Smi­ley finds him­self mount­ing the case that will make his rep­u­ta­tion as a mas­ter spy.

It is the early- 1970s, and the Cold War is hit­ting record low tem­per­a­tures.

With the Amer­i­cans dis­tracted by Viet­nam and Water­gate, it is the Bri­tish who have been left to hold the frontlines of in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing against the Rus­sians.

Sus­pi­cion is rife there are many blindspots to be found in the Bri­tish de­fences. Dou­ble agents, or ‘‘ moles’’, are reg­u­larly get­ting through unchecked.

One may have pen­e­trated ‘‘ the Cir­cus’’, the se­cre­tive high­est ech­e­lon of Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence. As a former mem­ber of the Cir­cus – hav­ing been un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously sacked when a mis­sion in Hun­gary blew up in ev­ery­one’s faces – Smi­ley is con­sid­ered the only man ca­pa­ble of de­ter­min­ing which of the ring­mas­ters has gone rogue.

To say that Smi­ley qui­etly goes about his work is like stat­ing bears pre­fer to use the woods as a pri­vate bath­room.

At his most an­i­mated, the man is per­fectly still. In his down­time, this blood­less hunter of miss­ing de­tails may not even reg­is­ter a pulse.

And yet Smi­ley’s dogged quest for the truth – as fil­tered through Old­man’s im­mov­ably stoic per­for­mance – is never less than an ad­dic­tively im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence.

A mag­nif­i­cent sup­port­ing cast led by Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and John Hurt self­lessly sub­mit them­selves to the sub- eco­nom­i­cal ap­proach de­manded by di­rec­tor To­mas Al­fred­son.

With the pe­riod pro­duc­tion de­sign awash in a sea of ’ 70s browns and sec­ond- hand cig­a­rette smoke, you can only just make out who is who.

This only adds to the lean- for­ward mag­netism of Tinker Tai­lor, as the mys­ter­ies deepen and mul­ti­ply in­side all that murk. Now show­ing State and Vil­lage cine­mas The spy­mas­ter: P6- 7

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