I'm not stupid. Not only do I follow complicated movies well, I also have a high tolerance for slow moving films too. I also understand that Tinker Tailor Solider Spy is a wildly popular novel by John Le Carre and it really is the esstential "Spy" story. I won't discount its popularity one bit and assume that the book is fanstastic and an utter joy to read. This movie, however, was torture to get through and one of the worst I've seen in recent memory.
Gary Oldman (JFK, the Harry Potter films) is one of the best actors working today. He's a virtual chameleon that changes everything from his voice to posture to facial expressions to suit whichever character he's playing at the time. In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, he plays George Smiley who is an aged Mi6 agent who's put in charge of a secret operation to find a spy within the British organization. Among the suspects are a Who's Who of top shelf British talent; we have Tobey Jones (the Harry Potter series, The Mist), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, The Green Lantern), Tom Hardy (Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises), John Hurt (the Harry Potter series, The Immortals) and coming off his Best Actor Oscar win is Colin Firth (The King's Speech, Love Actually). With a cast like this, you should be able to hit a home run without opening your eyes. But they struck out...BIG.
Everyone in this film is stuck in second gear. It's as if they're all trying to keep pace with each other, but the overall speed of the film is one of sluggishness. It's every stereotype you've ever had about British cinema being too dry, too dull, too slow,too boring, too...well...British. It's a spy thriller without ANY thrills at all. It's as exciting to watch as anything on PBS in the middle of the day. It's as if Masterpiece Theater got ahold of a potentially exciting story about catching a mole within a spy organization and sprinkled their usual dusty ingredients over it so it's as dry as unbuttered toast.
And that's only half of why it's as bad as it is. Again, I like to think that I can pride myself on keeping up with complicated pictures. Hell, the Coen Brothers don't bother slowing down a plot or explaining anything and I consider their films some of the best ever made. But Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is so hard to follow it makes it absolutely impossible to enjoy. You spend so much time trying to figure out who's who and what the hell their talking about that the fine details of the plot, like who's the spy and why are they spying, is totally lost on the audience. It's twice as frustrating when you consider that the film moves so slowly and you STILL can't keep it all straight.
Perhaps I can blame it on the fact that director Tomas Alfredson is Swedish. I know that seems racist but follow me here. His other film was Let the Right One In, which was a superb horror film that was remade for American audiences (Let Me In) and is sublime, touching and horrifying. It is also in Swedish. Maybe taking Afredson out of his native land and language caused a situation that made Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy go so far off the tracks. The only thing they got right was the absolutely flawless attention to detail in the sets, costumes and props to match its late '70s era. But when that's all you can say positively about a film, it's not hard to figure out where the mole is and I'm pretty sure it's the director. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: D-