When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I knew that I just had to see it. When I realized what a great cast the movie was going to include, I knew that I was going to see it and love it. Whenever I go into a movie with these kind of expectations, I almost always disappointed. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," however, was a fabulous exception to the trend. Strong acting, obviously brilliant directing, and a perfect complimentary soundtrack made this movie an instant Oscar contender.
The movie takes place in Cold War Britain, a very fascinating place and time in world history that is usually depicted in the popular James Bond movies. However, the similarities between "Tinker" and James Bond are few and far between: they take place during the Cold War and they are set in Britain. That's about the extent of commonalities. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is exceedingly complex and complicated to understand. It is certainly a more intellectual portrayal of the intelligence and espionage phase of the Cold War than the action-adventure style of the James Bond movies. While action-adventure spy thrillers are almost always entertaining and, for the most part, well done, it is refreshing to have seen a movie that challenges the viewer to think and keeps him guessing at every turn.
As mentioned before, the acting in this movie was phenomenal. Gary Oldman, one of my personal favorite actors, perhaps played the best role of his career as George Smiley, who is searching for a double agent among Britain's chief intelligence officers. The most brilliant part about his performance was his facial expressions. Smiley is a man of few words and it seemed like almost 20 minutes after he first appeared on camera that he actually spoke a full sentence. Many questions directed at him were answered with stares or looks that communicated what his reply was; and the amazing thing was that the audience, as well as the other characters, could understand what he was thinking. It's astonishing to think that just as he was making this movie he was also making the third Dark Knight movie, in which he plays Commissioner Gordon, an entirely different role than that of George Smiley. His performance is one the best for a male leading actor in recent memory and should land him an Oscar nomination.
Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and John Hurt also were incredibly solid as per their usual selves. Mark Strong and Colin Firth especially were intriguing as their characters played more and more important roles in the story as the movie went on. The way they brought about their character development on screen was absolutely masterful, showing audiences why they are two of the best actors in Hollywood today. Tom Hardy, who is starting to make more of a name for himself with movies like "Inception" and "The Dark Knight Rises," played a much different role than I have ever seen him in and was fantastic. With this role he has shown audiences that he is not just an action star or a tough guy, but that he can also play the serious and dramatic roles on a very high level. There were no acting weaknesses in this movie.
The story itself was quite confusing and challenged me to think more than I am used to doing when I go to movies these days. It is not that the idea behind the movie was confusing, but that it is a movie that switches between the past and present often that made it hard to follow at times. This had to be done, however, to explain the relationships between some of the characters (including a very, shall we say... interesting one between Colin Firth and Mark Strong's characters). The movie is based off of the book of the same title by John le Carre, and I think that I should find the movie much more clear once I have read the book. Due to its complicated nature, I cannot help but feel that it will not win all the awards that it should since modern movie culture does not like to have to think too hard about a movie and would rather sit through more action-packed and exciting thrillers. This is a real shame because the movie was quite brilliant and entertaining. I fear, though, that it has been released in a time where audiences are not patient enough to think the plot through, which would certainly increase appreciation for the movie. It did, however, have some noteworthy, recognizable stars which might save it in the eyes of the general public. Serious movie fans and those who appreciate or know a thing or two about Cold War history will, no doubt, find Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to be utterly entertaining.