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