Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Having finally gotten around to seeing this film, I can enjoy some of the best acting talent Britain has to offer. That, and feel a little bewildered.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the film adaptation of the popular spy novel of the same name which was also adapted for television in 1979 starring Alec Guinness. It follows an elite British agent who is brought out of retirement to track down a Soviet spy within the British intelligence agency MI6. His prime suspects are, alarmingly, the four top agents he once worked with.

Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and John Hurt. Five reasons to see this film. There are some powerful and incredibly subtle performances here from all of them, and with so many strong personalities you’d think one would stand out or break the immersion. But no, they all work incredibly well together. Gary Oldman especially, I will never get over how well the man bends into his characters.

There are however, problems. The film is only two hours, and while I was initially impressed at this “short” runtime, I come out of the film feeling like there’s a lot missing. Yes, it is a slow, ponderous and extremely sombre piece, relying on expressive glances and moody set pieces to tell the narrative, that isn’t my problem. In fact I really enjoyed that unique aspect. I felt the editing was a little jarring; like there were scenes abridged and cut out, making others seem sporadic. I came away thinking there should have been a further thirty minutes, and I certainly wouldn’t have been offended if there had been!

It certainly is not for everyone. It reminded me a little of The Conversation, and if it weren’t for the excellent acting talent here, I’d say that film suited me better. It begs the question about how far you can really take book adaptation into film; there is definitely a line being crossed here. I enjoyed it for the unique experience it was though.


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