Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has an impressive cast list including Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, and Tom Hardy, among others. It also has the dubious distinction of being one of the only movies of recent memory that completely confused me and also almost put me to sleep, as it was very, very slow. At the screening I attended, we were given a “dossier” of sorts that explained the plot and the characters in the film, and it appears that I should have read this more closely, because the plot explains nothing and leaves it up to the audience to decipher its various components.
Only three parts of the plot were clear: one, there was a mole in the “Circus” (what they call their intelligence agency); two, they were trying to find out who that was; and three, Strong’s character gets shot in the very beginning, although the particulars of this change later on in the movie. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on the novel by John le Carré, who writes decent spy novels – I’ve read a few – and to further understand the film, I looked at the Wikipedia page for the book. I also asked a friend who also saw it to explain it to me, and his explanation is much shorter. To paraphrase: “Oldman was the boss and they wanted him out.”
What I didn’t understand, though, was the point of the movie, other than the agents trying to ferret out the spy. There are random side plots and too many characters, and everyone who went to the screening proclaimed it to be the slowest movie they’ve seen in a while. If the director wants to reward those who have read the book or viewed the BBC version, that’s fine, but they need to at least clue the audience in to some of the film, or we will get restless, like I did. Revealing information with a wink – i.e., Firth’s character was having an affair with Oldman’s wife, and we see him sitting at Oldman’s dining room table wearing casual boots instead of shoes, which clued us in to that – is also acceptable, but if the majority of the audience doesn’t pick up on said “wink,” then it’s a bit pointless to reveal crucial information in that manner.
The official plot description from the film’s IMDb page, by the way, is: “In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6’s echelons.”
No, don’t see this film. Though I haven’t seen the 1979 BBC adaptation or read the book, I can’t imagine anything moving slower than this movie did. I’m hoping that the actors themselves knew what they were getting themselves in to, but it’s possible they saw who else was attached to the film and readily signed on without realizing that the movie is so dull. I expect more out of an all-star cast like this, and although the acting was decent, the plot was so confusing and the movie so slow that one can’t help but to hate this film.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is in theaters today, January 6th, and is rated R with a runtime of 127 minutes (which also didn’t help).
Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
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