Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2011) – Intelligence officer George Smiley is brought out of retirement, amidst agent Ricky Tarr’s suspicion of a Soviet spy within MI6 for years.
A thinking man’s thriller, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy grips with intrigue in every moment.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a Cold War espionage mystery. There are no action set pieces or high-octane car chases. Rather, what rogue agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) sets off is a quiet hunt with subtle interrogations after the long-term mole in British intelligence.
Intelligence officer George Smiley (Gary Oldman) names his titular suspects – Alleline, Haydon, Bland and Esterhase (Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik), not forgetting himself as Beggarman. All of whom pile onto the mystery with their duplicitous nature as spies, trained to keep secrets.
John le Carré’s source novel is an intricate puzzle, every minute detail necessary in unveiling each imperative piece. Never wasting a single solitary moment, screenwriters Bridget O’Connor (rest in peace) and Peter Straughan have crafted something dark and beautiful that pulls us into a willing state of concentration.
The density is impressive. We are unable to tear away from the screen for a single second, engrossed in uncovering each little clue to gain access to the veiled identity alongside Smiley. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy may have lost the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay to The Descendants last year. But if I had a vote, things might have been different.
Director Tomas Alfredson brings the material to life with captivating cinematography. Previously behind Let the Right One In, he once again delivers brilliant character-driven drama with palpable suspense.
It helps that he has a solid dedicated cast. Tinker, tailor soldier, spy – there is not one outstanding actor when each proves memorable in their own ways. Nuanced performances bring out the impact of unexpected twists, delivering powerful punches as secrets begin to slip.
Coupled with an immersive score by composer Alberto Iglesias, the ominous feature engages both heart and mind in an effective slow-burn. All elements come together perfectly for an unmissable genre masterpiece, polished and thrilling in all its complexity.