REVIEW: 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'

REVIEW: 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'

4 stars

Actor-tastic adaptation of the 1974 British spy novel by John le Carré, directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) – his first English-language film. Now playing nationwide.

When Tinker Tailor sweeps this year’s award nominations as it surely will – this is a film that yawns with quality – the one it most deserves will be missing: Best Supporting Mote. Adapted from John Le Carré’s Cold War spy novel, Tomas Alfredson’s follow-up to Let The Right One In is thick with dust, must and ash, its ageing agents suffocating in waves of grey as they try to root out the Russian mole “muddying the waters” at M16. Is there any point? As Gary Oldman’s creased George Smiley puts it: “There’s as little worth on your side as there is on mine.”

With its austere atmosphere, glacial pace and longwinded plot, it’s not a film for everyone. The most exciting setpiece takes place in a library, and no-one cracks out the Bourne moves. But there’s plenty for connoisseurs to savour, and all the time in the world to do so (the running time is just shorter than the Cold War itself). Oldman leads one of the best British casts ever assembled – we lose two UK acting greats before the opening credits even finish – and the film has a terrible sadness that seeps into your bones.

This isn’t Dr No or In Like Flint, it’s the prolonged and messy end of an era. Each chance of renewal (a mother suckling her baby, a bird swooping from the fireplace) gets violently snuffed out. And those dusty swirls aren’t just stylised visuals, they’re the ghosts of wasted lives. Seems some spies never did come in from the cold.

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