What I spied in Tinker Tailor





Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film)

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Last night I caught the 9:25 showing of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film I had been wanting to see for quite some time. The last movie I caught in theaters was a New Year’s Eve showing of Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol in a giant IMAX theater that was sold out. My theater experience with Tinker Tailor was different to say the least. First, there were about 15 people in the modest theater including myself and the gentleman in front of me who nodded off every now and again. Second, the screen was normal-sized. Third, the action portion of this ‘spy-thriller’ was less than exhilarating especially when compared to Tom Cruise scaling buildings, surviving the Kremlin exploding, and generally kicking-ass. But Tinker Tailor’s lack of explosions, witty one-liners and any kind of glamour made it refreshingly enjoyable.

There is no real James Bond, no Ethan Hunt, no Jason Bourne, however there are real spies and members of various ‘intelligence agencies’ and the  players in Tinker Tailor could just as well be such employees. They are old men, presumably intelligent, drab in appearance (even Colin Firth) and posses very little physical skill (Gary Oldman’s character even has trouble rising from his chair). These are the men of the British Intelligence and their job is anything but glamorous.

The Cold War plot is simple enough; there is believed to be a  mole within the elite upper echelons of the British Intelligence. Oldman’s  character, George Smiley, is brought back out of his forced retirement to investigate his former peers in an effort to suss out the mole. What ensues is a puzzle  being solved by Smiley who places pieces comprised of  seemingly loosely connected past events intermingled with pieces of current events that fit together perfectly to form the film’s dramatic conclusion.

What I loved about the film was its’ sincerity. The score is simple, there are no grandiose special effects, no gratuitous sex scenes, no cutting edge gadgets, and there is zero humor. The film is dry, lackluster, and curt. It doesn’t entertain unless you are invested, which is to say that you have to be cognizant of what is happening throughout the film without any sparkly effects or expensive action sequences to hold your attention. In short, it gives the audience credit, which is something I love. It also gives the film a sense of authenticity.

The characters in Tinker Tailor are people you would see in everyday places, not just in glitzy casinos or jumping from rooftop to rooftop, and the dialogue is  commonplace, even with the code names. The film’s authenticity translates into actually connecting with the main character (Smiley), or at the very least understanding him a bit better. Yes, he is a stoic, old and boring creature of habit, but what unfolds around him, and the picture of his world that develops, make him relatable. He doesn’t have flings with several super models, drive the fastest cars available or shoot weapons no one has ever seen before. He has a troubled marriage, a sore back and likes to take daily swims, he is unremarkable and understandable – a psychological understanding I have never found with any of the Bond characters.

What I did not like about the film was its’ portrayal of women. Yes, the setting is the 1970s, but I find it hard to believe that the decade restraint made it impossible for the filmmakers to portray the female characters as anything but  foolish sentimentalists, lusting secretaries, helpless mistresses and unfaithful wives. In a film that progressively depicts homosexuality I was disappointed that the progressive mindset did not extend beyond the male gender.

In short, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is well worth the effort of viewing.

6 Responses to “What I spied in Tinker Tailor”
  1. I’ve been eagerly waiting for this film to open near me for weeks. The reviews I’ve read have been quite polarized, however, with some saying it’s incredibly boring and others saying it’s an amazing film. I think because it’s not like the traditional spy thrillers (ala Bourne and Mission: Impossible) that people have difficulty reconciling their expectations.

    Nice review. Disappointing about the portrayal of women…it feels like a lot of films and shows are having that issue these days. I noticed the same thing in my review for Showtime’s new show, House of Lies…

  2. psychcine says:

    Thanks! And I have to agree with you, it feels as though mainstream media is reverting when it comes to women – hopefully the trend won’t last.

  3. CMrok93 says:

    With so much information being thrown at us, I wish that there was much more time for all of it to just sink in but I liked the fact that the film made you pay attention to every little detail as this story just kept building and building. Everybody here in this cast is great too, especially Oldman who perfectly brings this flick together. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.

    • psychcine says:

      Thanks! The cast was dead-on, not only in their portrayals, but also in their ability to maintain the overall tone of the film from scene to scene. I’m glad you enjoyed the film too 🙂

  4. 3guys1movie says:

    I don’t know if I would call TTSS lack of emotion “sincerity” I might instead call it borring. Even when Smiley sees his wife making it with Haydon he can barely get above a whimper. I don’t think I know one person who would react in such a way. The whole cast of the film seemed to suffer from schizoid personality disorder.

    • psychcine says:

      Well, I’m not sure that I agree with your diagnosis, but can certainly understand your interpretation. You should also take into consideration the line of work these men are in – they must have gone through intense emotional training and learned to detach as a defense. Emotional explosiveness or weakness in any way could not only put their work in jeopardy, it could also put their lives and the people they love in jeopardy.

      Having said that, I appreciate your perspective and the commentary in the 3 Guys review – thanks!

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