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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy | Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy | Gary Oldman | John Hurt | Tom Hardy | Colin Firth | Review

John le Carré’s complicated, multi-layered espionage tale unfolds in a stylish, sophisticated manner; while the pace is slow, the developments are not.  Dialogue is exceedingly important.

Set in 1973 and very much in the middle of the Cold War, the British Secret Intelligence Service known as the Circus and its head operative known as Control (John Hurt) are alerted to an unknown mole within the organization.  The mole acts as a double agent, leaking intelligence to the Soviets.  Suspicion falls upon everyone, even George Smiley (Gary Oldman) the Circus’ retired Deputy Chief.

Smiley is secretly reinstated to the Circus after a mission goes horribly wrong for operative Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong).  What follows is an investigation that reveals a menagerie of double-cross, infidelity, betrayal, corruption, kidnapping, torture and assassination

Operatives Tinker, Tailor, and Soldier, portrayed by Toby Jones, Colin Firth, and Ciarán Hinds, respectively, along with Poor Man (David Dencik) are all high-ranking agents within the Circus, but suspects nonetheless.

Karla is a Soviet master operative and not necessarily female.  Witchcraft is a Soviet source providing information to the Circus.  These two are never seen but their movements are extremely crucial to unfolding events in the often violent labyrinth that is international espionage.

Extra information is provided by rogue agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) through his association with Irina (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who claims to know dangerous intelligence that jeopardizes her own life.

With the sharp, exacting Smiley on the case, aided by young agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) pieces slowly fall into place.  Smiley takes daily swims, leaving his eyeglasses on his face so that he’s always observing, always ready to act.  In the course of his investigation, he finds that even HE’s a prime suspect as being the possible mole – even though his assignment came from Permanent Undersecretary of State for Defense Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney).  No one is immune from suspicion; no one gets the code name SPY, because it applies to every one of the operatives.

There is so much movement, intrigue, and backstory to the film that you could be left behind in a matter of minutes, unless you’ve read le Carré’s 1974 novel or seen the seven hour miniseries starring Alec Guiness as the deliberate, soft-spoken Smiley.  The dense story is full of flashbacks and unrolls as an intelligent albeit confusing journey.

Gary Oldman’s Smiley is a subtle, watchful, dispassionate and chilly, a man of few words and precise action.  Tom Hardy is a chameleon who disappears into the role of Ricki Tarr as if you’ve never seen him before.  The supremely elegant Colin Firth seems made for the role of smooth operative.  Mark Strong arms the hard-as-nails Prideaux with a menacing countenance and icy resolve.  John Hurt’s Control is full of faded power and waning strength, but also shrewd Circus diagnostics.

Director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One in) maneuvers his sophisticated cast through their mazes without spoon feeding the audience.  Aided immensely by a smart screenplay by Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor, he simply trusts them to keep up.

For his part, the stylish, deceptively slow-paced and subtle unveiling of information both demands AND commands viewer attention, and Alfredson lets developments unfold in a drab period detail of bleak, rainy grays of London. The trench coats optional; the treachery is not.  Attention will be rewarded with hard-won knowledge.

Like a spy, you must prepare for this assignment.

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