Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Gary Oldman heads up stellar cast in Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Le Carre’s Cold War masterpiece
George Smiley is a spy, working for British Intelligence during the Cold War. His world is a far cry from the glitzy casinos and rivieras of his flamboyant double-O counterpart though, coloured by a palette of muted browns and greys, with only the occasional splash of crimson to break the monotony. These environs match Smiley’s temperament perfectly – he is a slight, unassuming figure, almost entirely composed of greys and browns himself, and wonderfully portrayed by an understated Gary Oldman.
The plot, which is linear and episodic in nature, is of secondary importance: there’s a mole in the Circus (MI6’s base of operations), and Smiley must find work his way round the relevant personnel and find out who it is. The real meat of the film is to be found in the flawless performances turned out by every member of the all-star cast: John Hurt, Kathy Burke, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and Tom Hardy all crop up in the course of Smiley’s investigation, each wearing the guarded and deadened look of people who have become accustomed to living with too many secrets.
That director Tomas Alfredson has packed this dun-coloured universe with so many stars and not had it collapse under their weight is a testament to his steady directorial guidance. As with his calling card, Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, he’s chosen to cover ground that’s been well trodden before, but traversed it with such subtlety and restraint that his footprints remain eminently more visible than those that have gone before. After the hyperkinetic Bonds and Bournes of the last few years, perhaps it’s time for a more measured, mature spy genre to come in from the cold.