Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Movie Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

This is one difficult movie to watch but a good movie nonetheless. George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is a retired British spy who's seen too much in his long career. His service has defined him, ruined his marriage and pretty much beaten him down. But he didn't retire on his own accord, he was forced out, when his mentor, Control (John Hurt) was forced to retire after a mission to Hungry went spectacularly bad. A year later, Smiley is asked by a government minister to investigate the spy agency department he worked for (called "The Circus") and find out if there is indeed a high placed mole in the agency.

One of four, old-line, senior management types at the agency is suspected of being the mole. These are the very men that forced Smiley out. He is given little help in his task, but Smiley is a man of principle, the mole must be found and the leaking of secrets to the Soviet Union must be stopped.

The Soviet Union? Yes, the story takes place in the mid-1960s when the Cold War was being fought by men like Smiley. It is a very old fashioned movie. There is very little action, a lot of talk. It is a dark movie, dark in the way it is filmed (the director seems like he never heard of electric lights or filming in the daytime) and dark in the hearts of these men (and the occasional woman) who fight this war. Torture, betrayal, treason and the occasional shot in the back or head).

The acting is strong, as it would have to be in a movie like this. Oldman is terrific as Smiley, a man of few words, a man not of action but of thought. He puzzles out the identity of the mole and then sets an elaborate trap for him.

This is also a movie that is hard to follow at times. I saw it with my daughter and we had to check with each other a few times to be sure we knew what was going on. If I were watching it on Netflix, I'd have had my finger on the replay button.

I wouldn't take the kids to this. Not that there is much sex (a little) or violence (I think there are three gun shots in the whole movie) but because they will probably think it is dull. I think the story would be too complex for anyone under 16.

The film seems to be in very limited release. I think it is only playing in two theaters in the Houston area, one of which happens to be about 15 minutes from my house.

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