¨It's the oldest question of all, George. Who can spy on the spies? ¨
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy might just be my favorite movie of the year. Director Tomas Alfredson caught my attention a few years ago with his Swedish film Let the Right One in, which in my opinion is the best vampire film I`ve seen. This is a very different movie, but he still uses very similar techniques. He shoots several shots from a distance which sort of sets the mood of the story dealing with espionage, the setting is also very dark and grayish, and the story moves at a pretty slow pace, but at the same time the mystery and thrills are always there. This is how a spy thriller should be made; it`s about as realistic as any spy film could ever be. I`m sorry for all those Mission Impossible, James Bond, and Jason Bourne fans, but this is a far more superior thriller. Perhaps the action isn’t as entertaining or as easy to follow, but if you stick with this movie and put your complete attention specifically on these characters the result is truly satisfying. This isn’t a popcorn movie you can watch while you’re doing something else; you have to devote time and attention to it. My greatest fear is that viewers are becoming so numbed by mindless action scenes and special effects that we don’t even want to think about a movie while we`re watching it. Sometimes we just want to feel entertained, but we`re not willing to spend time focusing on the story and what is going on. We want everything put in front of us and don`t want to try to discover things on our own. If that is the case then Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is not the movie for you, but if you are into a well crafted mystery thriller than you will be in for a pleasant surprise like I was. This was one of the greatest viewing experiences I`ve had this year.
The movie takes place during the Cold War and its set in 1973 London. One of the head members of the British Intelligence Service, named Control (John Hurt), sends one of his agents (Mark Strong) on a special mission to Budapest. Control tells Jim that he received important and confidential information about one of his four top spies being a mole, which would explain why the Russians have been up to date with what is going on in England. Control`s four head spies are Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), and Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), and he believes one of them is the mole. Control evens suspects his right hand man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), so he orders Jim to go to Budapest and meet with his contact to find out who the traitor is. He has a code name for each one of the spies (tinker, tailor, soldier, and poorman). When Jim arrives at Budapest the mission goes wrong and it`s clear to Control that the traitor has found out and blown the mission once again. Control is forced to retire after the Budapest fiasco along with George Smiley. A year later Control passes away and one of the British ministers hires Smiley to discover who the mole is after he receives a phone call from a disappeared agent named Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy) who claims to have information about the traitor. Smiley begins investigating with the help of another agent named Benedict Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam) and begins piecing things together through a series of interesting and eye-opening flashbacks.
The story is just really well made, it`s really smart, there is a lot of talking going on, and not much action, but it forces you to pay attention to every small detail of the movie. Once the movie is over, you feel like watching it all over again because you feel like you had missed some important details. I really loved this film and was completely satisfied with the movie. The performances are just great, Gary Oldman steals the show. He is so quiet and emotionless; what a really good spy probably looks like. You never know what is going through his mind, but you cant help but think he knows what he`s doing. Then there is Tom Hardy who is always great. He is probably the person who shows more emotion in this movie, but he is brilliant. Peter Guillam, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, and John Hurt are all terrific as well. The movie really has a seventies feel to it and I don’t think you can get closer to that time better than how Alfredson did. The casting, the setting, the filming, the editing, the soundtrack, everything about this film is just perfect. This film, along with Drive, were the best experiences I had with a movie this year. It isn`t a sexy or entertaining film, it will require your complete attention, but the payoff is completely worth it. The screenplay was also really well adapted from the John Le Carre lengthy novel. They were able to condense the story into two hours which is much shorter than the seven hour BBC television version starring Alec Guinness. I really loved this film and absolutely recommend it over any other spy thriller.