The Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy marketing team have come up with a novel way of marketing the film. They seem to be leaving “secret folders” (essentially the guide to the Circus which you can download in pdf form from the official site) around London for people to find.
Once you’ve found one if you take a picture of it (presumably in an exciting location) and you can up it to the Facebook for a chance to win a poster signed by the cast.
Great idea (sorry its London only though).
And another superb 5 star review in The Telegraph:
Very rare for three of the broadsheets to grant 5 stars to the same film.
Another fantastic 5 star review for the film in The Guardian:
(I will update the reviews page on the site at the weekend to include all the new reviews).
Fantastic 5 star review by Kate Muir in The Times:
John Le Carré’s world of espionage and betrayal is brought to brilliant life by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson
Here is a spy thriller seen through a smear of brown Windsor soup, rather than through the crosshairs of a gun-sight. As John le Carré’s novel takes to the big screen, the action is more cerebral than physical, yet utterly gripping. The clues are in the twitch of an eyebrow, a sly glance across a room, a bead of sweat falling. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is better described as a puzzler than a thriller, a spy Su Doku where clubbable men discover they have joined the wrong club.
And what splendid gentlemen they are, straight from the theatrical top drawer: Gary Oldman as George Smiley, Colin Firth as Bill Haydon, John Hurt as Control, Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillem, Tom Hardy as Ricky Tarr, Toby Jones as Percy Alleline, Cierán Hinds as Roy Bland and Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux. For fans of the book, such casting will be sheer delight, although I experienced an initial who’s who moment of panic as the seemingly identical M16 men-in-suits trooped out. If only they’d been issued with corporate name tags …
The story is set in 1973 as the Cold War heats up in the crummy corridors of M16, known as “the Circus”. Our taciturn but telepathically intelligent hero Smiley has been cast out into the civilian wilderness, retired by the new regime, which has also putsched Control. An operation to “turn” a Hungarian general has twisted, and the British agent Prideaux is shot. Information is flowing the wrong way, towards Moscow and into the hands of Smiley’s nemesis, Karla. Smiley and Guillem suspect there is a mole right at the top of the British secret service, and begin their dogged pursuit.
So far so good. But how do you compress a dense 349 page book into a two-hour multiplex extravaganza? Especially with Alec Guinness’s television Smiley blocking the spotlight? You call in the Swedes, specifically Tomas Alfredson, who last directed the Oscar-nominated vampire movie Let the Right One In. Alfredson has an understanding of creatures that operate in darkness and secrecy, and his eye for period detail borders on the obsessive.
Perhaps it takes an outsider to see into the hearts and minds of repressed, polite Englishmen, and Alfredson brings that Scandinavian slow divination to the mix. For the offices of the British secret service are riddled with men’s fear and loathing, their rankings and ranklings inculcated in clubs and common rooms. But where once the stakes were low and grudges petty, now lives and nations depend on them. Those who went to the wrong school, or God forbid, the wrong tailor, are still taking quiet revenge.
The subtleties of tailoring turn out to be a useful guide to character: badly-cut brown suits are questionable, while Smiley’s buttoned-up grey three pieces show a man of integrity, who even wears a tie after swimming in Hampstead ponds. Haydon’s suede Hush Puppies with red socks and Guillem’s flash silky ties are a sign of closet flamboyance. Alfredson’s scriptwriters Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan have brought the homosexual subtext to the fore, reflecting the real history of espionage.
Oldman’s Smiley is so still and watchful, you can hear his brain click. In his beige Gannex raincoat, he paces round the action with the calm of a cat, his senses attuned to every danger. When he pounces, it’s not before sucking contemplatively on a Trebor Extra Strong Mint. Smiley’s imaginary conversation with his enemy Karla is a revelation: “We’re not so different, you and I.” Smiley’s famous glasses are an aide memoire for the audience: in flashbacks they are tortoiseshell, in the present day, Seventies’ grey bins.
No detail of the design has been missed by Alfredson, and the film is worth watching for the cinematography alone. One scene takes place in a Wimpy bar, and outside the streets are packed with classic cars from Morris Minors to Prideaux’s baby blue Alvis and a golden 1966 Citroën DS 21. The interiors of the Circus are saturated institutional brown and green, and Control holds his secret meetings in a giant Spam can, a Portakabin soundproofed with yellowing foam.
The locker-room claustrophobia is aided by a lack of women. Only two female characters have more than a line, and Smiley’s errant wife, Ann, is almost invisible, seen from behind. This is a man’s world and Alfredson jokingly acknowledges that with a shot of graffiti towards the end which says “The Future is Female!”, anticipating the coming regimes of Stella Rimington and Eliza Manningham- Buller.
That said, this is not just a man’s film. There’s enough delicate characterisation to enthral, though the plot requires your complete attention. It took me a second viewing to fully appreciate the toothsome detail. In retrospect, every gesture counts.
Le Carré once said that filming a book is like making “a cow into an Oxo cube”, but he has ended up with a sophisticated bouillon. As a producer, he had a hand in the recipe, and he also makes a Hitchcockian cameo. Look out for him in the second M16 Christmas party episode, which features Father Christmas in a Lenin mask. Le Carré is a white-haired old spy on the right of the screen, singing the Soviet National Anthem, but his presence is felt in every scene of the movie.
I was meant to be doing something completely different last night but when a ticket became available at the eleventh hour to the preview screening of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy at the BFI thanks to a kind friend it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Whenever a film like this generates this much buzz you do start to rather worry that perhaps it won’t actually live up to expectations when you do finally see it. But never fear as a movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is quite superb.
I’ll do a more detailed review when I have time but here are some initial thoughts (utterly spoiler free):
The film is superbly acted. So often when a film generates this much Oscar buzz when you eventually get to see it all you can see is the cast working their socks off for the Oscar committee. Its all showboating and huge showy speeches in the hopes that finally they’ll get that gold statuette they’ve been craving. The acting in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is nothing like that. There’s no OTT showboating if anything everyone underplays their roles. The acting from the entire ensemble is universally excellent and as befits a film about spies where careless talk costs lives so much emotion is conveyed by nothing more than a look, the odd touch, a furtive glance here and there.
I’m a huge fan of Gary Oldman but am used to seeing him play larger than life villains. The corrupt cop in Leon, the OTT baddie in The Fifth Element (a guilty pleasure), a rather camp Dracula and my favourite a white rasta drug dealer in True Romance. He is an utter revelation as George Smiley. Gary has said that the trick to Smiley is to make people forget that he’s there and he has achieved that wonderfully. In his hands Smiley is this utterly anonymous, grey man. Bundled up in his overcoat and over sized glasses he cuts a sad and lonely figure. He’s a picture in stillness. You would pass him on the street without even giving him a second glance and forget him the moment you walked away from him. All of which are of course the very qualities a master spy needs. Smiley doesn’t even say anything for the first 15 minutes of the film and when he does speak it is in a very particular measured way. There are no big speeches or showy moments with a soundtrack blaring to a crescendo which can be repeated endlessly in award show clips. A moment of devastating revelation at a Christmas party is met with little more than a devastated intake of breath. It is only later in the film in a key scene at an air field that we truly see the authority and steely resolve that lurks beneath that benign surface. It’s such a delicate piece of work I fear it may be overlooked but it deserves not to be as it’s a superbly subtle piece of acting.
The cast as a whole is magnificent. Everyone gets their moment. Kathy Burke is marvellous as the refreshingly salty Connie wallowing in nostalgia for her “lovely boys” (she also gets the line of the film), Stephen Graham has a tiny role but is so hugely personable in his brief moments of screentime that you wanted to see more of him, Toby Jones complete with soft Scottish accent is suitably oily and ambitious as Percy Alleline, Ciaran Hinds slightly thuggish as Bland, David Dencik a study in barely controlled panic as Toby. Colin Firth is suave and charming as Bill flirting with the world around him and Mark Strong makes a very strong impression with few lines as the tragic Prideaux (the limited interplay between him and Firth’s Haydon is the stuff of Greek tragedy). John Hurt does a marvellously venomous term as Control – all fire and brimstone convinced of the reality of a mole in his organisation but powerless to do anything to stop it.
The movie is practically stolen by Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch both of whom are utterly superb. In Hardy’s hands Ricki Tarr is both tough, twitchy, hugely likeable and very vulnerable – undone completely by the one woman who has managed to get under his skin, the one woman he wanted to save. It’s quite a brave vulnerable performance and the screen lights up whenever he’s on.
And Benedict is quite quite superb as Peter Guillam. Clad beautifully in a variety of natter outfits he outwardly flirts with everyone while slowly his life is disintegrating around him. Fiercely loyal to Smiley the scene where he is asked to retrieve items from the Circus is a masterpiece of dramatic tension – when he takes a moment to collect himself afterwards you find that your heart is racing too. However it is the scene where the reality of his profession comes home to Guillam which just about broke my heart. He never says a single word but with one agonised look manages to convey his utter devastation at what his chosen profession has cost him. It’s a short but very powerful scene which really stays with you. As with the other performances so much is conveyed with so little. There’s no great confrontation when the mole is finally revealed but the look of shock and anger and betrayal on Guillam’s face quite says it all. It’s a wonderful performance which is justifiably getting a great deal of praise.
The look of the film is wonderful. Everything looks suitably murky- its a universe of muddy browns and greys. Control’s office with its hideous orange bobbly walls is a study in claustrophobia. A painting with some emotional resonance for Smiley is a series of daubs of grey paint. Even the print itself looks like its been covered in tea and kicked around a bit before being screened. It’s about as far from the flash bang wallop of Bond as its possible to get. Apart from coaxing stunning performances from his cast Tomas Alfredson brings that real sense of loneliness and melancholy that pervaded his wonderful horror film Let the Right One In to this world of espionage. It’s a film where silence is used to great effect. The period details are incredible – so many products, clothing & furniture I remember from when I was growing up. The use of music is also compelling. You won’t hear many recognisable standards but the end montage of these sadly lonely spies yearning for something more set to the jaunty vocals of Julio Iglesias stays with you long after the credits.
If there is any criticism to be had arguably the film could do with a slightly longer running time to allow for the principal suspects to establish themselves more but thats the only criticism I had.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a wonderfully acted, impressively directed intelligent film that completely rewards your attention. Its a superior breed of thriller and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Big Picture Extra - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Premiere footage
The lovely people at Digital Media Services UK Limited sent me a link to this great video from the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy London premiere. Lots of interview clips and great footage of the premiere.