Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a British spy flick about MI6 during the Cold War era, qualifies in my mind as a wonderful psychological thriller. To be sure, this is one movie which viewers must pay close attention to in order to keep up with what transpires throughout the film. Admittedly, I spent the first part of the movie confused because some of George Smiley’s flashbacks took a minute to sink in. I would think to myself, “Wait! What’s happening here? Oh, just another bit of memory.” Another contributing factor may have stemmed from my lack of knowing much of anything about this film prior to seeing it. That said, I’m really glad I didn’t look this movie up on imdb.com before I watched it!
(Clockwise: David Dencik, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, John Hurt, Gary Oldman, and Ciaran Hinds)
The movie opens with a clandestine meeting in a sound-proof room where discussion and disagreement over Operation Witchcraft leads to the ousting or supposed “retirement” of Control (John Hurt) and Smiley (Gary Oldman). As the movie progresses, it becomes clear suspicions had been circulating about the possibility of a mole in MI6 for a while. After the death of Control, it falls to George Smiley to ascertain the validity of such remarks before any accusations can be made. He, with the assistance of Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), begins a game of cat and mouse.
Control had already identified and code-named each possible mole utilizing chess pieces. He had taped a picture with a matching code name on five separate chess pieces identifying each one of the suspects. When George discovered the pieces in Control’s home office, he found Control had labeled Percy Alleline (Toby Jones) as “Tinker” and Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) as “Tailor”, Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds) as “Soldier” and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) as “Poorman”, plus one for him (Gary Oldman) as “Beggarman”. So, even though, George knows who the potential players are, he has some work ahead of him to determine the truth regarding each one.
Enter Ricki Tarr, a “rogue” agent, with some critical intelligence about the mole’s Russian contact. That combined with some of Peter’s “research” leads George to an agent everyone believed killed while on mission for Control in Hungary. Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) has some information which further helps George along in his investigation. This, in turn, eventually leads to the discovery of Operation Witchcraft’s secret house. The house is the designated meeting place for the Russian contact connected to Operation Witchcraft where vital government secrets get routinely exchanged.
Shortly after its discovery, George and Peter stake out the house to see who the mole is, but find a surprise when more than one of their suspects frequents the house. Following a little “chat” with Toby (“Poorman”), George gains enough information to successfully flush out the mole. George and Peter use Ricki Tarr to set up the mole and lure him to the house so they can arrest him for espionage. Right up to the end, I was guessing “who done it” and sitting on the edge of my seat.
Even though the storyline summary found on imdb.com doesn’t give away the ending, it does disclose the truth about Jim Prideaux. Furthermore, the movie poster picture on the site gives away a LOT about the movie’s conclusion. I find myself wondering, “Did they do that on purpose?” Of course, if I’d seen the poster beforehand I wouldn’t have noticed anything significant. However, after seeing the film and then seeing the poster, I just stared dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe they would actually make it that obvious. But I digress…. back to the movie itself.
Everything about this film reeked of the late ’60s through early ’70s. The color and all that went into creating the quality or texture for the movie looked as if it could have been filmed during that era, which lent credence to the entire plot. It had the grainy film quality that movies of that era have and the costume designer did a good job donning everyone in the fashions of the day. The characters smoked anywhere and everywhere they pleased, even in the workplace. Of course, that was allowed in the workplace back then. Overall, the scene set up, from vehicles on the roads to clothing worn by pedestrians, helped seal me into the believability of the plot. It also helped to have such a marvelous cast of characters, as their acting added to the ambiance.
Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon in Batman Begins and Zorg in The Fifth Element) played the character of George Smiley superbly. In fact, I think all of the major players in this film did a marvelous job portraying their characters! Colin Firth’s role as Bill Haydon came as a surprise to me because his character in this film vastly differs from the ones I’ve previously seen him play in such movies as What A Girl Wants, Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, and a smattering of others. I generally don’t like to see an actor I like play against type, but I think Colin did a good job of playing his role. All in all, I think everyone involved in the making of this film did a wonderful job.
That said, while I could have done without the nudity and sexual situations, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the presence of them in this film since it’s rated R. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I would give it four out of five stars and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they knew anything about it or not.