‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ Review: A Beautifully Shot But Difficult to Follow Spy Thriller
If you sit through this entire movie trying to put together every piece of the puzzle, remember the names of every character, and follow every plotline to the end, you will give yourself a terrible headache. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a dense film that rarely rewards viewers for their patience and lack of understanding, even if it may be the filmmaker’s intent. However, it does feature several good performances from its all-star British cast and is beautifully photographed.
Gary Oldman stars as George Smiley, a Cold War era spy brought out of semi-retirement to find the mole that the Soviets have used to infiltrate British intelligence. Sound simple enough? Wrong. There are layers upon layers that explain the reasoning behind the mole and why certain people could be and could not be the mole. Trying to unravel this complex web of motivations is nearly impossible. Some might say this demands repeat value. Others may not want to put more time into what is largely considered just entertainment.
The second half of the film is far better than the first half as what few pieces we can see fall together and the tone of the storytelling tells us that important things are being figured out. Had the plot been slightly more viewer friendly then the film would be full of tension. But it’s hard to care about what confuses you.
The film fared much better performance wise. Gary Oldman does a fine job as Smiley. It isn’t Oscar worthy but he plays the part subtly, very rarely letting the audience see what he is made of. Colin Firth does well here too, proving once again that he has one of the best screen presences in all of cinema. Tom Hardy is really the only actor who gets to have a bit of fun in his role and does so admirably. Mark Strong also gives one of the better performances of his career giving his character great depth and emotional turmoil. Another great performance comes from John Hurt who takes control of every scene he is in.
However, the best thing about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is its artistic style. Every shot has something else to look at and reveals these things at perfect pacing to ave you squirm in your seat before seeing the true nature of what is going on. The editing is spectacular as well as shots will drift into each other flawlessly.
Sadly though, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is far from what I hoped it would be. There is an interesting plot in here somewhere it just isn’t presented clear enough for the audience to follow it or care. Caring is what keeps you from looking at the time while sitting in the dark theater, something I did after about an hour. (**1/2 out of 4)