Watched Mar 08, 2012
Jonny Neeves’s review:
Desperately lacking in depth, with some superficial characterisation, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the adaptation of John Le Carre's much critically acclaimed novel of the same name gives us a fantastically cast main character, yet is ultimately let down by the fact that the novel is far too in-depth for a literal translation.
John Le Carre in his piece of literature creates a engrossing world full of despicable phonies, desperately specific language and a plot that delves deep down and keeps on twisting and turning, remaining deeply mysterious until the last few pages. It is of course the product of a smart writer, who creates in the process this wholly admirable hero, his demons and insecurities setting him apart from the norm as a character of pertinence.
This is the advantage of the film; casting Gary Oldman was likely a formality, but he is severely needed to keep the whole thing afloat as we're suffocated by characters that aren't developed enough to interest, let alone provide excitement or anticipation to what comes next. Oldman is, on his day, a superb actor and throughout the entire film his demure, selective behaviour acts out as a really sublime testament to the Smiley of the novel.
Tomas Alfredson has already proven through Let the Right One In that he possesses the talent behind the lens to develop and expand upon the characters of original material. Perhaps this is a step too far though, as it's an incredibly intricate, labyrinthine source material to develop. What results is a wishy-washy attempt to bring together multiple perspectives and culminate in an ending that deals directly with all the turmoil of our protagonists and their individual journeys.
It's a competent spy film in its own right, but lacks that extra coat of paint, which unfortunately reveals the bare bones of a slightly thin script. Despite being visually splendid, it still feels lacking in atmosphere, the claustrophobic tendencies of the literature lost in translation. Whereas we should have had a film brimming to the top with ugly, dirty, backstabbery, filled with the complexities of the system, we had an unconvincing, somewhat generic cat and mouse story, seemingly unwilling to explore the behind-the-scenes malfunctions of the world in which it inhabits.