The much anticipated big screen adaptation of John Le Carre’s 1974 classic ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ gives a fresh and polished take on the beloved tale of the ‘cold war warriors’. Setting aside the gadgets and car chases of today’s spooks, Swedish director Tomas Alfreson, famed for his 2008 vampire movie ‘Let the Right One In’ instead turns to a star-studded British cast to bring the thought provoking and complex tale to life.
The film opens with Prideaux, an agent sent by the Circus (The code name for MI6) for a meeting in Budapest, where instead he is gunned down by Russian officers. Back to England and the heart of the country's security service where the top dogs of the Circus wonder who betrayed their agent? Head of the agency, Control (John Hurt) takes the blame along with his lieutenant George Smiley (Gary Oldman) and resigns. But soon, following Control’s death, Smiley - now outside of the Circus - is rehired by the government to find out who is the mole on the inside.
With five chief suspects the old ‘who dunnit’ plot is laid out as Smiley and his team of misfits set about trying to find out the man who has betrayed their colleagues, friends and country to the Russians. Giving away that it is a ‘man’ is no spoiler as female characters are sparse in this era with only old colleague played by Kathy Burke and a pretty Russian blonde making fleeting appearances.
The film, like the book throws the audience straight into the action with flashbacks, spy jargon and a multitude of characters giving a complex start to the multi-layered story of treachery and human sacrifice. The paranoid and tense world of the spies has been brilliantly portrayed. From the authentic costumes and detailed set designs to the cutting and lonely stares that are exchanged between the characters, it is clear that no one trusts each other and everyone, in the end is out to save their own skin.
As the action moves on, so the story begins to clearly take shape and the audience begins to understand the suspicious and isolated lives of the Cold War spy. The energy of the film moves between brutal violence and quiet moments of reflection. It may start with a bang, but this is a more thought-provoking approach to the spy genre and a faithful adaptation of Le Carre’s novel.
Many of Le Carre’s core fans will be aware of the 1970s television drama starring Alec Guinness whose success and popularity put many in the film industry off reprising the story for the big screen. But with one of the strongest casts of actors seen in any film for the last few years, the supporting cast boasts Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy, this 21st century take on the Cold War espionage has more than delivered.
Refusing to simplify the complex tale, the film makers have done a great credit to audiences who do not need things dumbed down for them to enjoy it. The lack of glorified car chases and stunts are instead replaced by brutal realism and offer a renewed look at the world of spies after a twenty year gap.
Although complicated in parts, you do not need to be a genius or a fan of the spy genre already to enjoy this film. The performances are engaging and strong enough for audiences to appreciate the personal battles that the characters are going through even if they are not sure of all the code names and relationships.
In a time when we are given blockbuster after blockbuster with exploding buildings and impressive special effects ‘Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’ is a refreshing change. Even those not a fan of the spy genre will enjoy the perfectly crafted world and superb performances by the all-star cast that make it such an entertaining watch.
'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' is on general release in UK Cinemas now.