Monday, January 9, 2012
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Movie Review
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a movie based on a book of the same name by John le Carré. This was also adapted to a mini-series back in the 70's starring Alex Guinness. TTSS was released in the UK back in September, so there's a been a healthy amount of hype and positive reviews before it got released here.
TTSS basically follows the story of George Smiley (Gary Oldman), who is brought out of retirement to discover the identity of a Solviet double agent at the top of British Intelligence. His primary suspects are codenamed "Tinker", "Tailor", "Soldier" and I bet you think the next one is "Spy", right? Well, you're WRONG! The remaining two suspects are "Poorman" and then "Beggerman", who is Smiley himself.
Naturally, that eliminates one of the suspects right off the bat, but at the same time, if Smiley is one of the suspects, why was he the one brought out of retirement to investigate? Was it because since he was retired, he couldn't have been involved in recent events? It wasn't clear to me. That's kind of my issue with the movie. Outside of the initial premise, I can barely tell you what the movie was about or who anyone was. There are so many characters and code names that I felt like I needed to take notes and draw up a flow chart to keep it all straight.
To muddy it up even more, they jump around in time a lot to tell the story. They do this without any warning or letting you know when things are happening. The events of the movie happen during a fairly short period of time, so it's not like the age of the characters let you know when things are happening. It seems like this was something better suited for a miniseries due to all of the characters and events going on. If HBO or Showtime would have made this instead of a 2 hour movie, I think it would have been easier to follow.
This is more of a thinking man's spy film, rather than a action-based one. It's lots of long interviews and people researching things. Normally, I wouldn't have an issue with that, not everything needs to be 007, but the movie ends up being kind of boring due to the lack of any action.. There's no real emotion or punch to the the film and it lacks any kind of urgency. Because there are so many characters, you really don't get to know most of them, and don't care about any of them as a result. When I finally found out who the spy is, I was just, "Um...okay." It didn't feel like there was any evidence pointing specifically to that guy. You could have told me it was anyone by the end of the movie and I would have went along with it.
TTSS does have a great cast though and has good performances going for it. Even some of the lesser known British actors in the movie you'll recognize from other films. Gary Oldman is great as he always is. I also really enjoyed Tom Hardy and Mark Strong, John Hurt stood out for me as well. Colin Firth and Ciarán Hinds are good, but I felt like they were underused.
This movie has a nice style to it, but again, everything felt bland. It was directed by Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, who also directed Let the Right One In. Peter Straughan co-write the screenplay, which is surprising because he also co-wrote The Debt, which I think is a much better spy movie. Again, I think the issue is that there's too much going on here to do it justice in a 2-hour movie.
While one guy stood up and applauded as the movie ended, I heard many people out in the lobby saying things like "I didn't get it" or "I'm not sure what happened.", so I have a feeling this is how many people are going to feel about it. You're either going to love the hell out of it, or walk out of it not getting it.
I saw this at The Vine, which was a good idea as they have more comfortable seating and you're going to need it to get through this. You feel every minute of the movie's run time due to the pacing. I had to fight from falling asleep at one point. Honestly, I wouldn't even recommend seeing this in the theater as this is the kind of movie you will likely find yourself pausing or rewinding in order to make sense of it all.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy kind of bummed me out. Despite the great cast and how much I was looking forward to it, it just didn't do anything for me. It's well acted, but lacks anything to really grab or wow you.
3 (out of 5) Death Stars.