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March 12, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Review – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

DIRECTED BY: Tomas Alfredson

Spy thrillers are curious beasts. All too often, they contain nonsensical plots and characters that are nothing more than crude caricatures. Luckily, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy manages to avoid such perils. Brilliant performances from a cast of British luminaries are complemented by Alfredson’s accomplished direction to form a cinematic treasure.

Centred on the search for a Russian mole within British intelligence, the film is saturated with suspicion and mistrust. Smoke and haze permeate every shot, symbolic of a world where motives are obscured. The film’s depiction of the world of espionage is stark, debunking the romanticism peddled by James Bond-type movies. Sets are sparse, characters are unsentimental, shots are tight. As alliances shift with alarming regularity, we remain constantly on edge, waiting with bated breath for the next twist. Alfredson’s meticulous control of the suspense levels is astonishing, making a relatively complex story captivating.

Unsurprisingly, the cast is uniformly excellent, though the standout is undoubtedly Gary Oldman. His low-key, yet evocative, portrayal of George Smiley serves as the audience’s anchor to this chilling world. He shows us that Smiley is not driven by ideological devotion, but rather a feeling of duty and necessity. Oldman’s performance is not one of melodramatic flourishes. Rather, he favours a more intimate and subdued take on the character.

My only complaint is that, with such a well-crafted build-up, the final reveal proves a little underwhelming. The ‘mole’ can be identified relatively easily, which makes the finale feels slightly predictable. However, this is a minor fault as the final scenes certainly don’t lack for intrigue.

Regardless, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an exceptional film that expertly interweaves intriguing ideas with a gripping tale of subterfuge. Alfredson transfixes us with an intelligent yarn that constantly leaves us guessing about what is to come. Simply put: this is a master class in intelligent, yet thrilling filmmaking.

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