Film Review: Stoic Gary Oldman Uncovers ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’

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CHICAGO – Espionage sure isn’t like it used to be. The new film “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is set during the Cold War period of the early 1970s, when lines were drawn by their proximity in front of and behind the Iron Curtain. Gary Oldman plays an old British spook in this thriller adapted from the famous John le Carré novel. Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

The title of the novel and film version has become a shorthand for describing a spy network and espionage circle. Without any knowledge of the plot in this work, I described another similar thriller as “a morality play by way of tinker-tailor-soldier-spy” The words in the title are intriguing enough to tantalize, and mysterious enough to arouse suspicion. They are also more provocative than this film version, which does entertain despite its maze of complexity, and also confounds due to a slow pace and British-like emotional atmosphere.

The “Circus” is the nickname for the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6, which is led by “Control” (John Hurt). When Control sends Agent Prideaux (Mark Strong) into Hungary to meet with a potential Soviet defector, a violent scene takes place, and that is enough of a transgression to force Control to give up his post. This sends the old guard from the WW2-era packing as well, including super spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman).

There is suspicion that the Circus is harboring a mole – the term for double agent, a plant that is stealing strategies and giving them to the Soviets. The undersecretary (Simon McBurney) secretly rehires Smiley to investigate the agency for that mole, and assigns younger agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help him. The suspects are narrowed down to four of the inner circle – code name Tinker (Toby Jones as Alleline), Tailor (Colin Firth as Haydon), Soldier (Ciarán Hinds as Bland) and Poor Man (David Dencik as Esterhase). And finally, it might even be Smiley himself.

”Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” continues its limited release in Chicago on December 16th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, Benedict Cumberbach and Colin Firth. Screenplay Adaptation by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan. Directed by Tomas Alfredson. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

David Dencik (left) as Esterhase and Gary Oldman as George Smiley in ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’
David Dencik (left) as Esterhase and Gary Oldman as George Smiley in ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’
Photo credit: Focus Features

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

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