Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Sabin » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:46 pm

I've now seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy a second time after it grew in my memory over the past few months, as these things tend to happen. I think what threw me off my first viewing is that it seems like a complicated story but in fact isn't. By the end of my first viewing, I was struggling to remember everything that happened. Now that I knew where it was going, it ends up not being as complicated a story as you would think. It only seems complicated, and it does so in a way that still makes my head-spin. All the characters speak in a code that seems almost dream-like, and in a way the film is about this group awakening from a dream and looking at the world around them. Or failing to in time. What made the film so difficult for me the first time is that every line carries the gravity of a page, and every scene carries the gravity of an entire subplot. For me, watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was like watching a foreign language film without the subtitles. It still works. You still know what's going on. But I found it very difficult.

The only time the film felt clear and immediate was in the Tom Hardy scenes. He's a man who has had his fill of the smoke and mirrors and wants out. Oddly, Alfredson mutes the impact of the fate of his woman to us and the character. Less successful is the relationship between Prideaux and Hayden which is made explicit only through really one or two shots and the resolution. In a film where seemingly everyone is in bed together figuratively, it makes an emotional sense that they be in bed literally, but it really takes one by surprise. As I've said, the film to me is like watching a foreign film without subtitles where one has to guess the meaning behind the words, and there is so much (to quote John Hurt's Control) "treasure" to be found that it is both imminently rewatchable but also a little frustrating that the damn thing couldn't have been thrown together on a more epic scale. This is not a two hour movie. This is at least a two and a half hour movie. I checked the deleted scenes and I found an earlier reveal that Hayden was sleeping with Ann (something completely missed by the friend I was watching the film with), a somewhat mystifying scene between Bland and Guillam, and an incredibly mystifying scene of Oldman frying an egg and looking like an old woman. Like, literally. He cracks the egg, fries it, hears a bird chirping, and then eats it. At the end of it, I looked to my friend and said "We just watched Gary Olman cook an egg." "Yes, but in character." I can't imagine the purpose of that interlude, but it's totally purposeless. If there is nothing else that was shot and was later excised, I'd be shocked. But while I find the film pretty intriguing, I have to resist it because it's so goddamn disorienting.

This is a pretty sensational ensemble, and it might be the handsomest production of the year. Its nominations for Oldman and Screenplay are fine, but its nomination for Iglesias' score was very deserving, and it should have taken if not won Cinematography, Art Direction, and Costume Design as well.
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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:25 am

This is the kind of movie which makes one feel guilty if one doesn't "get it", if one doesn't understand every single turn of the plot, and, more generally, if one doesn't like it - it's just so "classy". And as I had heard that it was extremely complicated and difficult to follow, I went there ready for the task, convinced that I couldn't miss even just a single line otherwise I would have been completely lost - not the most relaxed way to approach a movie.

I shouldn't have worried so much. It's true that some details are quite subtle and subtly provided (and I missed a few, too - for example, while there's an obvious gay subplot concerning two spies, I've read that a third spy - an important character by the way - is also supposed to be gay, and I hadn't seen that), but the general meaning of the story is, I'd say, quite clear - maybe complex from a narrative point of view, but never really complicated. And most importantly, especially seen right after something like The Help, a movie like this frankly can only be appreciated - it's definitely an example of mature filmmaking.

There are so many good things in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - its recreation of the 70s, for example, never obvious but still very precise - THOSE are the 70s that I (vaguely) remember. And its spies - ordinary people, sometimes grey like the background behind them, often unhappy, caught in events which are so obviously bigger, and historically much more glorious, than them - are interestingly portrayed (and played by a great cast).

Still, when you work by subtracting - avoiding emotions, "big" scenes, ecc. - you are certainly elegant but you can also be accused of being a bit vague, and this applies to both the movie and, more crucially, Gary Oldman's performance. His is the kind of minimalistic turn that the Academy usually ignores - unless, as in this case, it's from an actor who's suddenly, and honestly, a bit surprisingly, perceived as "overdue"; for a while, watching it, I was wondering how such a performance - a good performance, by the way - ended up among the final five. Then, at one point, there's a long monologue which Oldman delivers with appropriate intensity, and I thought, ok, we have our Oscar clip. I guess we should be grateful when such subtle work is recognized by the Academy - but I still think that Michael Fassbender should be there, too.

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:21 am

And may get them.

It's by far the best English language film released in 2011.

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Reza » Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:59 pm

dws1982 wrote:Would love to see it get several surprise nominations on Tuesday.


It certainly deserves nods for Best Picture, Oldman, Alfredson, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Costumes, Art Direction and Score.

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 7:19 pm

Okri wrote:Saw it. Loved it. Tomas Alfredsson's work is a massive leap above what he did in Let the Right One In.

Totally agree. Last year The Social Network turned into the movie that I could watch over and over again. (It's not my favorite movie of 2010, but I've watched it more than anything else from 2010.) I think it's going to be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy this year. Just loved every minute of it. It should easily be my pick for Best Ensemble of 2011; There's not a single less-than-excellent performance in the film (so many of the actors make huge impressions in just a scene or two). Would love to see it get several surprise nominations on Tuesday.

Wouldn't mind seeing this production team tackle the rest of Le Carre's Karla Trilogy.

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Okri » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:10 pm

Saw it. Loved it. Tomas Alfredsson's work is a massive leap above what he did in Let the Right One In.

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby jack » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:41 pm

ksrymy wrote:Hugo is going to get the Art Direction win. That and Tree of Life winning Cinematography are the only wins I can convince myself of.


Having seen both, and now having seen War Horse, I have to say Kaminski and Rick Carter deserve both cinematography and art direction respectively for Spielberg's Great War film. The Artist, sight unseen, will have to do a lot to convince me that it's better than Sir Steven's achievement.

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby nightwingnova » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:58 pm

Oldman does an amazing job transforming into an old spy...but there really isn't much for him to do except walk through the procedural.


ksrymy wrote:POSSIBLE SPOILERS LIE AHEAD

It's not surprising at all that I enjoyed this film. I have read more than my fair share of le Carré novels. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is one of my all-time favorite novels and Richard Burton should have won his first Oscar for his portrayal of Leamas. But I digress.

Gary Oldman leaves me with many questions. Like Magilla says, his work is far too subtle to be taken seriously by the Academy, but I found myself wondering a few times if his work was actually subtle or if it was a standard performance. His performance straddled the line between subtlety and mediocrity and I can't decide which it is.

There were bright spots in the movie though. Among said spots are Colin Firth, Kathy Burke, and, surprisingly, Benedict Cumberbatch. Tomas Alfredson (while a little too heavy with the "look ma!" shots) is able to make less-seasoned actors shine. Colin Firth, while not among the ones Alfredson needs to direct, is probably the most interesting character in the film. Firth delivers a typical "I'm-a-great-actor-but-don't-have-a-chance-to-shine-so-I'll-do-my-damnedest-with-this" performance but it's at the end when he's talking to Gary Oldman where we can see he is physically broken down and vulnerable that he comes through the most and tells us what it is to be Bill Haydon. It's a shame that scene wasn't longer. Kathy Burke shined in her few minutes as the employee-who-knows-too-much. But I am surprised an actor such as Benedict Cumberbatch succeeded in his role as Peter. When I heard he was cast, I dismissed it as an attempt to get young girls to see the movie just so they could look at him, but Alfredson really makes Cumberbatch effective here. He plays Guillam's paranoia and subdued rage to a tee and that is what shocked me the most here.

The only nomination I think this film could possibly pull out is an adapted screenplay nod.

Overall, I'd give this film three, maybe three and a half, stars.

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby ksrymy » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:44 am

Hugo is going to get the Art Direction win. That and Tree of Life winning Cinematography are the only wins I can convince myself of.
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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Sabin » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:17 am

Much like The Good Shepherd, I could see it getting a nomination for Art Direction. As it should. It has the best of the year IMO. A cinematography nomination would be wonderful.

Best Adapted Screenplay is a little tight this year with The Descendants, The Help, and Moneyball pretty locked in, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, and War Horse vying for the last two spots. I would be perfectly fine with a screenplay nomination. It's always tricky to surmise what was left out, improvised, or any number of variables, but I don't think any of the problems I have with the film is the fault of the narrative as written, but rather as directed. In fact save for Moneyball, I'd favor it for a victory over all the films listed above.
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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby ksrymy » Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:51 pm

POSSIBLE SPOILERS LIE AHEAD

It's not surprising at all that I enjoyed this film. I have read more than my fair share of le Carré novels. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is one of my all-time favorite novels and Richard Burton should have won his first Oscar for his portrayal of Leamas. But I digress.

Gary Oldman leaves me with many questions. Like Magilla says, his work is far too subtle to be taken seriously by the Academy, but I found myself wondering a few times if his work was actually subtle or if it was a standard performance. His performance straddled the line between subtlety and mediocrity and I can't decide which it is.

There were bright spots in the movie though. Among said spots are Colin Firth, Kathy Burke, and, surprisingly, Benedict Cumberbatch. Tomas Alfredson (while a little too heavy with the "look ma!" shots) is able to make less-seasoned actors shine. Colin Firth, while not among the ones Alfredson needs to direct, is probably the most interesting character in the film. Firth delivers a typical "I'm-a-great-actor-but-don't-have-a-chance-to-shine-so-I'll-do-my-damnedest-with-this" performance but it's at the end when he's talking to Gary Oldman where we can see he is physically broken down and vulnerable that he comes through the most and tells us what it is to be Bill Haydon. It's a shame that scene wasn't longer. Kathy Burke shined in her few minutes as the employee-who-knows-too-much. But I am surprised an actor such as Benedict Cumberbatch succeeded in his role as Peter. When I heard he was cast, I dismissed it as an attempt to get young girls to see the movie just so they could look at him, but Alfredson really makes Cumberbatch effective here. He plays Guillam's paranoia and subdued rage to a tee and that is what shocked me the most here.

The only nomination I think this film could possibly pull out is an adapted screenplay nod.

Overall, I'd give this film three, maybe three and a half, stars.
"Men get to be a mixture of the charming mannerisms of the women they have known." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby ksrymy » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:22 pm

I have it loaded on my computer now since http://www.1channel.ch just added it in DVD quality today. I'll write a quick review/thoughts when I'm done.
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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:09 pm

Perhaps it's because I'm more familiar with the genre than most (I've read Smiley's People, seen a number of other LeCarre movies, and generally watched BBC mysteries over the last few decades). I simply don't see why people claim such bafflement about the plot in this film. It's densely packed, and complex, but I don't find it particularly challenging to follow -- there was an odd scene or two I couldn't immediately place in context, but that was true in The Wire, as well, which was part of what made that a TV landmark.

And this is really a spectacular feat of filmmaking. Alfredson orchestrates every moment beautifully, literally up to the final, couldn't-be-improved-upon shot. He shuffles around past and present effortlessly, in the process telling what's probably 2 1/2-hour's worth of story in barely over 2, thanks to hairpin editing that takes us through the story smoothly (it never feels cut like an American action film) but very quickly. He also achieves a wonderful early-70s/Brit drab look, and underscores it all with Alberto Iglesias music that I'm surprised hasn't been touted as among the year's best.

I don't know if Gary Oldman can poke through for a nomination, but he's wonderful here. He may be recessive for a good bit of the time, but his retelling of his meet-up with Karla couldn't be a more effective Oscar clip. The rest of the cast is perfectly solid -- Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch the standouts -- but I don't think anyone will be cheated by not making the Oscar list.

Really a first-class film. Has anyone else (besides Sabin) seen it?

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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:55 pm

I can't see any scenario in which Gary Oldman wins for this performance. The work is far too subtle to be taken seriously by the Academy. He has no outbursts of emotion, just meaningful and longing glances. And we all know the Academy doesn't get subtle. Matter of fact, I could see them bypassing the performance altogether. The only thing that will keep him in the race is sentiment for a long, distinguished career. As for the film, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. Not having seen the prior productions, I cannot compare.

And, I find it somewhat amusing. Tomas Alfredson has directed a remake of a popular and critically successful prior work. He directed Let the Right One In, a popular and critical success, which was remade by another director.
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Re: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Okri » Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:11 am

Sabin, I think your initial response has to do with the dated/"why remake" factor that Tee mentioned and referenced with Brideshead Revisited. I have to admit I was more curious about this based on the cast + Le Carre + director (though I didn't enjoy, but it was really the trailer that had me sold.


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