Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

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

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Sep 07, 2011 4:30 am

Reza wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:Beryl Reid was good but it was quite absurd of the BAFTAs to nominate her in the lead category when the role was so small. Wonder why the Emmys did not nominate Alec Guinness although the film was nominated.


BAFTA, until 2010, only had one category each for actors and actresses in TV movies. Reid won the award in 1983 for the sequel, Smiley's People, in which her role is presumably a little larger.

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

Postby Reza » Wed Sep 07, 2011 2:19 am

Big Magilla wrote:OK, finished it. Funny, I had thought Smiley's People was the original and Tinker, Tailor the sequel when it's actually the other way around. I'm pretty sure I read it in the early 70s but don't really recall it.

Anyway, having finished it, it's difficult to see Kathy Burke pulling off a nomination for what can't be more than one scene. Beryl Reid was able to do it with BAFTA, but then she was a legendary star whereas Kathy Burke is practically unknown, at least in Hollywood. I'm surprised the reviews haven't had more to say about Mark Strong. Ian Bannen, who played the part in the TV mini-series was extremely compelling, but then he was Ian Bannen, and a two hour movie isn't going to be able to give the same level of detail to all the characters that a six hour mini-series can so perhaps his is one that got cut.


Beryl Reid was good but it was quite absurd of the BAFTAs to nominate her in the lead category when the role was so small. Wonder why the Emmys did not nominate Alec Guinness although the film was nominated.

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

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Sep 07, 2011 1:13 am

OK, finished it. Funny, I had thought Smiley's People was the original and Tinker, Tailor the sequel when it's actually the other way around. I'm pretty sure I read it in the early 70s but don't really recall it.

Anyway, having finished it, it's difficult to see Kathy Burke pulling off a nomination for what can't be more than one scene. Beryl Reid was able to do it with BAFTA, but then she was a legendary star whereas Kathy Burke is practically unknown, at least in Hollywood. I'm surprised the reviews haven't had more to say about Mark Strong. Ian Bannen, who played the part in the TV mini-series was extremely compelling, but then he was Ian Bannen, and a two hour movie isn't going to be able to give the same level of detail to all the characters that a six hour mini-series can so perhaps his is one that got cut.

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

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Sep 06, 2011 1:37 am

I just started watching the 1979 version. It's intersting to note that the most highly praised performances in the new film are of the most interesting characters in the original. The roles played by Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, John Hurt and Mark Strong were played in the original by Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Hywell Bennett, Ian Richardson, Alexander Knox and Ian Bannen respectively, all of whom are terrific. Beryl Reed had the part played by Kathy Burke but she hasn't appeared yet. Guinness won a BAFTA and Reid was nominated for one. Cumberbatch, Hardy and presumably Burke's character are all multi-faceted and they could all conceivably join Oldman in year-end awards recognition depending, of course, on what the competition looks like.

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

Postby Reza » Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:16 pm

I suppose Gary Oldman may now well be considered for an Oscar nod.

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

Postby Sabin » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:35 pm

I don't know why but when I read that this film would be released in 2011, I kinda wrote it off as a movie that comes out, is mildly praised, nobody sees it, and later we all remark "Oh, yeah. And that came out too."
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

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

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Sep 05, 2011 11:51 am

Hollywood Reporter -- also positive, but somewhat more restrained.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Venice Film Review
8:23 AM PDT 9/5/2011 by Deborah Young

The Bottom Line
John Le Carré’s complicated, distanced Cold War classic turns into a visual delight with an authentic British feel.

Huge on period atmosphere and as murkily plotted as its source material, this big-scale European adaptation of John le Carré’s 1974 Cold War novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy shows a faithfulness that should fully meet the expectations of the writer’s fans. At the same time, with Swedish director Tomas Alfredson at the helm of his first English language film, one might be pardoned for hoping for a bit of the spookiness of his Let the Right One In or the political passion of le Carré’s The Constant Gardener. Instead this good, old-fashioned square-off between spymasters Karla and George Smiley demonstrates a lot more loyalty than most of its characters. It is one of the few films so visually absorbing, felicitous shot after shot, that its emotional coldness is noticed only at the end, when all the plot twists are unraveled in a solid piece of thinking-man’s entertainment for upmarket thriller audiences.

Loyalty and betrayal are really but perfunctory undercurrents in the dense screenplay by Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O’Connor, which ensnares the viewer in an electrifying world of bureaucratic spy-dom from the opening scene at London MI6 headquarters, or “the Circus”. A bit like M briefing James Bond in a cluttered newspaper editor’s office, the action gets started when British Intelligence’s numero uno, Control (John Hurt), sends dashing agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) on a dangerous mission to Hungary. He is to meet with a turncoat Russian general who knows the name of a double agent high within their own ranks.

The mission to Budapest is a fiasco and puts an inglorious end to Control’s reign in the Circus, along with the career of his right hand man George Smiley (Gary Oldman). In his gray suit, gray hair and stumbling gait, Smiley looks ready for retirement. But after Control’s death, a sense of duty calls him back to catch the mole that cast a pall on his friend and mentor.

The suspects are cut-out faces taped to chessmen in Control’s shadowy, secret-filled apartment. They are all the Circus’s top brass: the ambitiously dislikable “tinker” Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), suave “tailor” Bill Haydon (Colin Firth, sardonically tossing off all the best dialogue), the solid "soldier" Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), "poor man" Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and George Smiley himself. Superb characterizations help distinguish the crowded Circus performers, though viewers are kept on their toes with an ever-expanding cast of operatives like the trusted young Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the romantic "scalp hunter"/hit man Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy).

Smiley’s visit to another cast-off colleague, Connie Sachs (a delightfully blowsy, vivid Kathy Burke) puts him on the trail of the Russian spy Polyakov, who turns out to be a key part of the puzzle. Nothing in the plotting is banal or easy to second-guess; on the other hand, nothing is very clear, either, and there’s a moment near the end when overlaid voices start buzzing through Smiley’s head, suggesting he’s almost as confused as the viewer. But all it takes is the patience to hang on till the final scenes, and the chessmen will be made to show their true colors in a quiet pay-off.

Picking up a role on which the great Alec Guinness left his signature in the 1970s when the novel was adapted as a British TV series, Gary Oldman is a cold-blooded, inscrutable Smiley whose unhappy marriage is the only personal thing about him. The scene in which he relives his one meeting with Karla is about as excited as he gets, and yet his rock-solid steadiness in a world of betrayal and his penetrating mind make him a very British kind of hero.

With the Cold War long gone and other problems to worry about on the world political scene, Tinker Tailor risks feeling out of date and superfluous. Alfredson’s solution has been to celebrate the period and its rigidity in a stylish feast of modernism designed by Maria Djurkovic and lit by Hoyte van Hoytema. The look carries over from creative indoor sets like the beehive-walled MI6 conference room to locations in London, Budapest and Istanbul. Shots framed through window panes and sets lit through a constant hazy mist emphasize the spy theme; some shots, like Ricki Tarr’s spying on a bedroom scene in the building across the street, have a Rear Window feel. Alberto Iglesias, who also composed The Constant Gardener score, manages orchestral accompaniment with a sly subtle touch.

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

Postby Okri » Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:13 am

Screendaily (also positive, also praising Oldman and mentioning Cumberbatch, Hurt and Burke)

A complex web of betrayal and retribution is spun with elegant assurance in Tomas Alfredson’s melancholy adaptation of the classic John le Carré Cold War thriller. The densely plotted saga of cloak and dagger intrigue is expertly crafted and remains utterly absorbing without recourse to the pulse quickening action ethos considered essential in the Bourne era.

Gary Oldman dominates as inscrutable spymaster George Smiley, heading a flawless who’s who ensemble of prime British talent. The film should be essential viewing for an upscale, older demographic who have previously embraced literate, top class British fare like Atonement and The King’s Speech.

Oldman has the unenviable task of following Alec Guinness who played the Sphinx-like Smiley in the BBC’s acclaimed 1979 adaptation of Tinker, Tailor. Oldman adopts the ghostly pallor and nondescript manner required for the role, offering a masterclass in perfectly nuanced minimalism. A raised eyebrow or the flicker of a smile convey a wealth of emotional detail in a performance that seems likely to gain awards traction in the afterglow of the film’s world premiere at Venice.

Set in 1973, Tinker, Tailor is immersed in the grubby business of international espionage. It is a grey world of faceless men playing deadly games in which nobody can be trusted.

Oldman’s Smiley is secretly reinstated to investigate the rumour of a mole operating at the very top of British intelligence. The suspects include bumptious Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Cold War zealot Roy Bland (Ciarin Hinds), smug womaniser Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), prissy émigré Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and even perhaps Smiley himself. Unraveling the traitor is a chess game of bluff and double-bluff that crosses continents and time periods as we discover who has been pulling the strings behind a stunning breach of loyalty.

Tinker, Tailor methodically sets out all the evidence and works as a superior thriller, but has greater impact in the way it reveals the human cost of global politics. Everyone has their secrets and sorrows, everyone has paid a price for their service to queen and country, especially Smiley and loyal operatives like Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) and Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy).

A crisp, smoothly textured script by Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor is well served by the calm control of Alfredson’s direction and an understated production design that emphasises the drab, cold world of the spying game over jarring period details.

The pace may feel a little deliberate for some tastes, but the slow burn pays off in a richly satisfying piece of storytelling brought to life by a once in a generation cast that also includes Benedict Cumberbatch as Smiley’s legman Peter Guillam, John Hurt as MI6 Leader Control and the welcome screen return of Kathy Burke as lonely researcher Connie.

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy ... Reviews

Postby Okri » Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:10 am

Variety (positive, prasing Oldman and singling out Cumberbatch, Firth and Hurt)

John Le Carre reportedly once said, "Seeing your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes." Maybe so, but in the case of helmer Tomas Alfredson's version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," the result is best likened to a perfectly seasoned consomme. An inventive, meaty distillation of Le Carre's 1974 novel, pic turns hero George Smiley's hunt for a mole within Blighty's MI6 into an incisive examination of Cold War ethics, rich in both contempo resonance and elegiac melancholy. Finely hammered to appeal to discerning auds and kudo-awarding bodies, "Tinker" should do sterling biz.

Like the characters within the story who are all haunted by the past, the film itself has its ghosts. Older viewers will remember well the BBC-Paramount seven-part miniseries from 1979, which starred Alec Guinness as an avuncular, donnish Smiley. The show was a hit perhaps not just because of the intrinsically compelling espionage story: Following on the heels of Watergate and the fall of the Shah in Iran, which prompted a crisis of confidence in intelligence networks, "Tinker, Tailor" chimed with an international sense of disillusionment with those in power. The notion that deep in the heart of democracy, those who were supposed to be its staunchest defenders might be unprincipled traitors, resonated with auds anxious about a volatile future.

Now, in the wake of corruption scandals that include the world banking crisis, this version of "Tinker, Tailor" catches the newest wave of disillusionment and anxiety. It may be a period piece, right down to the slacks flared just so and the vintage wallpaper, but it feels painfully apt now to revisit the early-to-mid-1970s, when things were just about to fall apart.

Scripted with surgical economy by Peter Straughan ("The Men Who Stare at Goats") and his late wife and sometime collaborator, Bridget O'Connor ("Mrs. Ratcliffe's Revolution," "Sixty Six") to fit a swiftly flowing 127 minutes, the plot reshuffles some of the novel's events, changes a few locales and invents a few scenes, but the essentials are all there.

The action kicks off with Control (John Hurt) -- the head of M16 (Britain's version of the CIA), colloquially known as the Circus -- sending field spy Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) on a secret mission to Budapest to talk a Hungarian general into defecting. The general knows the true identity of the mole within the Circus, the man near the very top of the organization who's been feeding vital secrets back to Karla, the Russians' spy master. (Like so many of the story's key characters, Karla is never quite seen.)

Control has narrowed down the suspects to five men, the first four often seen together like a menacing pack, and code-named them according to the old nursery rhyme: "Tinker" for careerist Percy Alleline (Toby Jones); "Tailor," the urbane Bill Haydon (Colin Firth); "Soldier," the formidable Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds); "Poor Man," the weaselly Toby Esterhase (David Dencik); and a fifth, "Beggarman," for Control's right-hand man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman).

However, the mission goes terribly wrong, and sometime later, Undersecretary Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney) recalls Smiley from retirement and charges him to find out who the mole is, since the evidence is mounting that Control, now dead from a heart attack, was right all along. In need of a man on the inside at the Circus' London HQ, Smiley takes on Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) to retrieve documents for him from the Circus' archives.

One of the pic's biggest departures from the source is to weave in flashbacks to a Christmas party, a scene that was never in the book. The party sequence efficiently reveals how Smiley learned about his wife Ann's infidelity, a crucial component in the theme of betrayal, and also sets an atmosphere and tone that makes this version of "Tinker, Tailor" feel fundamentally different from its predecessor: Under unglamorous strip lights redolent of '70s-era think tanks and the opposite of the gentlemen's club atmosphere of the TV series, the men and women who work for the Circus look more like the pasty nerds real Mi6 people probably were then (and maybe are now). They may hold the fate of the Western world in their hands, but many of them are outsiders to the regular establishment.

Seeing spies letting down their hair has a streak of absurdity about it that recalls helmer Alfredson's roots in comedy, evident in the breakthrough feature he made with troupe Killingganget, "Four Shades of Brown," whose title might be a suitable description of the palette of "Tinker, Tailor." It was a stroke of genius to hire the Swedish Alfredson to direct this oh-so-English material, not only for the sideways-angle European sensibility he brings to the table, but also for the flair for suspense, off-center framing and gloomy sympathy for outsiders he demonstrated in the pre-teen-vampire story "Let the Right One In." Indeed, the way he and "Right One" lenser Hoyte van Hoytema shoot the quartet of mole suspects as an ominous cabal, huddled together in their coffin-like, soundproofed room within a room, gives them a vampiric, menacing appearance.

Casting is one of the pic's strongest suits, with an ensemble that reps some of the finest talent working in Blighty. Everyone brings their A game, with Oldman setting the bar high as an eerily still, slightly sinister Smiley. Particularly worthy of mention are Cumberbatch, who in one charged scene gets across the cruel debt of silence secret servicemen will always owe, and Firth and Hurt, both in particularly choleric, amusing form. Kathy Burke (who starred in Oldman's "Nil by Mouth") has a vivid, salty cameo here as Connie Sachs.

Tech credits are aces, especially Alberto Iglesias' creepy, stealthy score, which plays off well against the sound design, and kooky, wry soundtrack choices like a Julio Iglesias cover of Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea" and George Formby's "Mr. Wu's a Window Cleaner Now."

For the record, while the pic is being marketed as "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," the onscreen title did not have commas.


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