With rumours of another film from the series in the air and a well-deserved Oscar nod for Gary Oldman now is a good time to revisit Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John LeCarre’s Tinker Tailor Solider Spy.
The story is no stranger to the small screen with the Alec Guinness fronted BBC series being, until now, the definitive version. Alfredson’s film is a meticulously crafted and intriguing thriller, taut in execution and bold in its refusal to sex up its dossier.
This is a superficially complex story of deceit and betrayal, told with confidence and benefitting from an exceptional cast and in revisiting the film there is a real sense of the depth of emotion in this collection of lonely men who are fighting what seems like an endless war against an oncoming network of internal and external enemies. If you want a more in-depth look at the film you can check out my review from last year.
Oldman’s Smiley is a masterclass of the understated leading man and watching the film for the second time you become aware of the delicacy of his movements and the deep well of emotions which briefly break the surface (two clear examples are the Christmas party and the arrogance of a high ranking MP) and it is a powerful performance which rewards further viewings.
A key indicator of the well told nature of le Carre’s story is the enjoyment to be had even though you know from the beginning who the mole is. Partially this is because everyone, even Smiley, knows in their hearts who the man at the centre of the betrayal but also because the mystery is so well revealed that you hang on every slight development.
Maria Djurkovic’s evocative production design, itself something of an awards magnet, is a treat on the Blu-ray, with its plethora of detail every bit as important in immersing us in this world as Jacqueline Durran’s costume work or Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography. The world is so dutifully created, with great skill, that it fades into the background as the story takes hold though without the explicit attention to period detail the film wouldn’t work nearly as well.
It’s rare that a cast is as uniformly this good, particularly with such a sizeable ensemble, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy impressing in particular, and each subsequent viewing is a rewarding experience. In taking us back in time once again Alfredson’s maturation as a director is evident in his ability to inspire his actors to surrender any sense of ego to the story. Despite the complex nature of the plot there’s a wealth of character here and it is their revelation, as much as that of the spy within, that is the film’s triumph.
It’s a well stocked affair with the usual back-slapping interviews giving a genuine sense of affection for the film and the people involved. There are a number of small featurettes focusing on a character or the institutions but the real meat is to be found in the sections devoted to le Carre and the interviews with the main cast. Each redoubles the enjoyment of the film and what comes across is partly where the film is at its best – that there is a great deal of unseen and necessary depth to the film.