Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Thoughts


Beautifully crafted, icy cold, a powerful ensemble of actors. Tinker Tailor is a completely unemotional examination of a world that is both cruel and unredeemable.
The period detail of the early 1970's is wonderfully done and the film dances handily between verisimilitude and enjoyable tropes of the spy genre. Gary Oldman is especially impressive as the deceptively decorous George Smiley, a top-level MI:6 operative who goes after a mole within "the circus." The young Benedict Cumberbatch shines among the glittering British superstars (including very enjoyable turns by Colin Firth, Toby Jones and the delectable Mr. John Hurt). The direction and cinematography are sure and solid with interesting visual flourishes, such as repeated compositions where a foreground object is kept out of focus to highlight the central action. Director Tomas Alfredson also tends to steer the camera away from whoever is talking in a given scene, an interesting choice in a film so replete with wonderful dialogue. The effect is disorienting yet effective, marrying image, sound and speech in ways both lovely and harmonic. Special mention should be given to the music by Aleberto Iglesias (who scored the Soderbergh masterpiece Che) which infuses the proceedings with added terror. The film stands at a concise 127 minutes given the behemoth of a novel it is based on as well as the intricate series starring Alec Guinness. In that space of time there is nary a false note. The film is without a doubt among the most accomplished works, technically speaking, released this year.

Examining the film on a more philosophical level proves a bit more tenuous. The film pays both deliberate homage to  - as well as exuding unabashed adoration for - the stylistics of 70's cinema, especially regarding the lack of conventional drama. This is mostly an aesthetic strength though one is forgiven for wondering whether, at the end of the day, the whole affair ends up being much ado about nothing. That being said, Tinker Tailor hits on revelatory existential notes in its beat apathy, much like the classic conspiracy thrillers of yore. A scene shared by Mr. Oldman, Cumberbatch and a rapidly emptying bottle of Johnnie Walker Black is an especially Sysiphean affair. As Smiley grows more forlorn, tired and drunk his increasingly slurred monologue unveils the terror of international espionage which in turn sheds light on the intrinsic absurdity of the human condition. Yet in embracing that absurdity and denying - as well as fighting against - the fundamentalism of the idealogue, true horror may be avoided. Which is probably the best we can hope for.

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