Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Success

The only reason I had any interest in watching Tinker Tailor Solider Spy was the cast (Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy et al.) I will hold up my hands and admit that willingly.
In fact, the only reason I read the book was that I knew there was a film and I knew the cast was spectacular. I was totally biased. In all honesty, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I found the book hard going, so hard going that I almost gave up on it several times and whilst I finished it thinking I’d maybe enjoyed it, I was dubious about seeing the film and I fully expected to be as befuddled and exhausted at the end of it as I was after the book.
I was surprised.
A lot is cut from the book, something I usually gripe about but this time I firmly believe this to be to advantage of the film – there is no way on earth that the enormous amount of detail that the novel holds could ever be shown in all it’s debatable glory, unless of course a brain-frying 7 hour film is your cup of tea. It isn’t mine and so I liked the way the book was edited: I like the elements that were kept and I liked that the book ending that has you gritting your teeth because you’ve hung on for so many hours just to still be left hanging is not the film ending; loose ends are tied up and I like that.

Be aware, if you plan to go and see Tinker, Tailor that this is not a bond-esque spy movie; there isn’t so much as a hint of glamour. The world of Tinker Tailor is grey and dull. It’s a world of run down offices seen through a haze of cigarette smoke and full not of Sean Connery style suave sophistication but of edgy, anxious over-worked men (and Kathy Burke.) In one scene Colin Firth rides a bicycle into the office; James Bond never did that. It’s the perfect setting really for the events of the film to play out: this story of doubted loyalty, of humiliation and of betrayal (so much betrayal) just wouldn’t work any other way. Despite the intricacies of the plot the film doesn’t lose pace because there is no pace; it’s almost slow motion, so slowly does the tale unfold and despite making my brain work harder than it usually likes to at the cinema, I was gripped from start to finish.

& what of the cast? Gary Oldman is fantastic, properly fantastic (of course) as Smiley, the agent brought out of retirement to try and find a mole at the top of the Secret Service. His portrayal of Smiley’s cold hard determination and barely disguised emotional pain is understatedly spot on; without him ever coming out and just saying it, you know that he’s angry and embarrassed by the way he was retired from the service, you know that he will find the mole if it kills him, you know how deeply he loves his wife, you know how hurt he is, not only by the professional betrayal of the mole but by the personal betrayal of a colleague sleeping with his wife. Every single emotion is unvoiced yet tangible and this is proof I think of the calibre of actor Oldman is. I was totally sold on his performance, totally and utterly.

Colin Firth makes a convincing Haydon, (although I did chuckle when in his first scene he called somebody a ‘prick’ – it didn’t seem right somehow, coming from Firth. Ha.) and his scenes with Mark Strong’s Prideaux, particularly at the end, were moving to say the least. There's a scene near the end at a Christmas party where the two of them exchange a look which just got me somehow, and then there's their final scene. More of that unvoiced emotion. Poor poor Prideaux.
Benedict Cumberbatch was fabulous – quote of the night from Helen “I think I love Benedict Cumberbatch even more now, even if he is ginger” I do love that girl. – and Tom Hardywas v good as Ricky Tarr. I did feel sorry for Ricky - falling in love with someone else’s wife, classed as a defector and then after the event offering his help in exchange for a false promise. Smiley was a very bad man lying to him about the woman he loved like that. Bad bad George Smiley.
Don’t be fooled: this is not an easy watch; it’s no light relief. It’s complicated and it requires your constant concentration and my brain was hurting by the time the credits started rolling but it was worth it. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is an unexpectedly good film, much better than the book.