29 April 2012

Movies: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1340800/

Mystery Thriller (Cold War espionage-type film)

Set in 1970's and centered around the British intelligence service, specifically the core group at the top.  After an operation goes terribly wrong in Budapest the head of the organization, Control, resigns. It is believed that one of the other four top members directly under Control is a double agent leaking information to the Soviets that led to ruin that operation, and perhaps others. Retired agent Smiley is contacted on the side to out the mole and is assigned a trusted agent, Peter Guillam, to help him.

Stars a great core cast of folks with Gary Oldman as Smiley, John Hurt as Control, plus Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik rounding out the core top men in the intelligence service.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Peter Guillam, Smiley's 'agent on the inside'. This time I had no trouble spotting Cumberbatch, unlike in "The Whistleblower" where I forgot to pay attention. I point out Cumberbatch 'cause (1) that's a cool name and (2) he plays a great modern take on Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series "Sherlock" which should be airing on PBS's Masterpiece Mystery starting May 6, 2012. The first season was darn good and I'm looking forward to this next one.

That aside aside, back to this film.

This film requires paying close attention. At first I had a bit of trouble keeping track of who is who and what's happening when and where.  The events happen in sort of a present/flashback/present oscillation, where you get to see what's happening, what's lead up to it, more of what's happening, more about the background of this or that, and sometimes I wasn't sure if what was happening was past or present. As the film progressed I did get a little better at sorting things out, and right before the end I was good and caught up. By the credits roll I felt the resolution was well worth the effort of watching.

The cast and acting were superb, as one would expect from such a cast. Technical aspects of filming were top-notch as well. All bundled with a very good story. Apparently the first English language production by the director, Tomas Alfredson, who directed the very-good "Let the Right One In".

This film is based on a 1974 spy novel of the same name, and a 1979 seven-part BBC series again of the same name. Checking the background I found out that the story is inspired by true events involving the Cambridge Five. The film made me consider watching the old BBC series. As dense as the film seemed I suspect exploring this story in seven episodes would make it a bit easier to follow. 

If having to pay attention to a film makes it too much effort to watch this one will certainly try your patience, but it is a solid story and worth every frustration to see it through to the end. Especially if you enjoy real-world(ish) Cold War espionage type films.

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