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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

A masterful adaption of John Le Carre's 1970s spy thriller about the secret British hunt for a high-ranking KGB mole.
By Tom Glasson
January 08, 2012
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

A masterful adaption of John Le Carre's 1970s spy thriller about the secret British hunt for a high-ranking KGB mole.
By Tom Glasson
January 08, 2012
  shares

There's something curiously comforting about a classic British spy film. They've an indescribable charm to them, a sort of old-world authenticity that very few others seem capable of capturing. Doubtless much of that is owed to so many of England's finest espionage writers having actually served in her intelligence services. Both Ian Fleming and Roald Dahl, for example, operated as intelligence officers during WWII, and even Christopher Marlowe is thought to have carried out covert activities at the behest of Sir Francis Walsingham.

Not even they, however, can match the experience of writer John Le Carre who penned the novel upon which Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based. Le Carre (whose real name is David Cornwell) served as an intelligence officer for both MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and '60s, leaving to becoming a full-time novelist only after his cover was blown by the now infamous KGB double-agent Kim Philby. The incident so affected Le Carre that it formed the central theme of Tinker Tailor, a labyrinthine thriller about a suspected KGB mole within the highest ranks of MI6 and the secret internal operation to root him out.

There's very little to dislike about this movie. For one, it boasts an extraordinary cast of England's finest, so much so that veteran John Hurt only receives about 10th billing when the credits begin to roll. Leading the charge is Gary Oldman as George Smiley, a disgraced former agent charged with the unenviable task of investigating his friends and erstwhile colleagues. It's a sublimely subtle performance, with Oldman's haggard fragility masking a cool and understated menace. There to assist him are Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch and his Dark Knight Rises co-star Tom Hardy, while the four subjects of the investigation come in the form of Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik.

Like all classic spy stories, Tinker Tailor is intensely complex and certainly not a film for the easily distracted. Directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), it requires one's complete attention if there's to be any chance of keeping up with the continuous plot twists, industry jargon and disjointed narrative; however, the reward is entirely worth it. Le Carre refreshingly eschews the spy gadgetry, satellites and obfuscation of modern intelligence in favour of a very human story about friendship and betrayal, exploring the motivations behind treason and the emotional strain it places on all parties to the deception. Betrayal is, after all, the very marrow of the world in which these characters exist, and Alfredson masterfully taps into it in order to produce this sleek, intimate and taut psychological thriller.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Aco15ScXCwA

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