Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Review
Subtlety and espionage are two things you would think would not work together in a film. We are so used to experiencing explosions, double-crossings and sex in any spy film we see. In comes Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson to prove that subtlety can be used to tell an engaging spy tale. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is by no means perfect, but it is very effective at what it sets out to do.
The film, unlike most espionage thrillers, does not open with a bang but slowly builds up to the first explosive moment. These first few scenes set the pace for the rest of the film. It's a slow building and very anti-mainstream film. There are no characters spewing out everything that is happening with the plot. There are no characters that ooze sex appeal or heroism that can be found in your typical blockbuster. The main character is an old man (the consistently noteworthy Gary Oldman), who has a very laid back personality. In fact almost all of the characters are made to look as unglamorous as possible.
While this style will indeed bore most, those that invest in the film will be rewarded heavily. The film itself is so detailed that it is at times like we have traveled back to the Cold War era and are viewing a real life incident. Also adding to the realism is that you never see a character giving out exposition to explain what is going on. Instead visuals are used to tell plot points (such as when a set of chess pieces show you the the agents suspected of being the Soviet mole at the center of the crisis). Even character development is done through visuals. One of the most striking scenes in the film involves a bee in a car with a few of the characters. The way each character handles the bee is much more effective in developing the characters than any dialogue would have done.
Tomas Alfredson and company also add to the effectiveness of this film by giving it an original visual style. Most of the film shows spies involved in day-to-day life. It is a very shocking revelation to an audience that is used to the flashy lifestyle of a James Bond or Jason Bourne, but it rings much truer than the lives of those characters. However, when the film wants to be flashy, it can more than pull it off. The film carries many striking and haunting images including a dead woman holding a crying baby and the death of one character near the end of the film.
While the cast for the most part acts as a set of puppets to Alfredson, there are some standouts. Gary Oldman pulls off another masterful visual transformation as he looks so old and fatigued. His mannerisms display this too. The performance is very subtle but is just as effective as any of his previous performances in his acclaimed career. Tom Hardy is the best of the supporting cast as his major sequence is aces and he serves as a great narrator.
The only way in which this film doesn't completely exceed is that it is oddly edited at times. Some long shots are followed by quick cuts that leads too some confusing moments. The film also goes on for a bit too long and borders on becoming convoluted at times. However, this is seemingly the type of film that you can gain a lot from a second viewing.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an interesting and well executed take on the espionage genre.
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