Watched Feb 01, 2012
Karl von Randow’s review:
Le Carré’s novel is a tricky one to pull off in two hours. Not because the story at its heart is complex, but because it is simple. Very simple. Hide out in the old mansion and catch the bad guy when he returns Scooby Doo simple. What makes the story is the characters, their relationships, the exotic destinations with minimal exotic women. And critically the not-at-all-exotic locations; the heath, the river, the shop, his house.
Conversations overheard prior to my screening:
Ticket girl to patron: "Don't fall asleep. Oh! No! I mean, it's good. It's just hard to follow, so don't fall asleep or you'll miss it."
Couple #1 in theatre: "You'll have to concentrate." "Oh, I'm not good at following complicated stories."
There's a mythos built up around this film that coming out nodding is like scoring well on an IQ test. I don't accept this film as an intellectual test; I don't think you go home thinking about it only to have the bolt-upright moment. There wasn't anything shown that you missed. If you wonder what you've missed, you were misled by the beautiful simplicity in which the drama resolves. The film isn't full of red herrings, it's full of everyday life told as spy drama where no piece is explosive but it is all part of the story.
The audience is somewhat disadvantaged by how much time we spend defining Smiley's character; swimming, wearing glasses, listening to someone and not responding, HE PUTS A WEDGE IN HIS DOOR, and generally attempting to recreate the magic of Guinness. Versus the time spent leading you through the potentially suspenseful stake out and reveal.
Where there should be suspense I didn't find any. I first met the characters in the 1979 television adaption (somewhat later than 1979) and wasn't properly reintroduced. It's not exciting when someone I know could be a mole, if not only can I not remember them but they haven't uttered a single word to me in the past two hours.
The film succeeds in painting a delightful and romantic view of the cold war intelligence service. They moved documents up and down in pipes. Oldman attempted to recreate TV's Guinness and got a long way. He didn't have the smile; more I-farted than Guinness's forced and kindly patronising. And he didn't keep the character when raising his voice in the end. John Hurt was fantastic. Even better than his dragon in Merlin. Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam steals the show and has the best action scene.
The film also succeeds in hinting but not showing. It hints at relationships but doesn't kiss and tell. It leaves many ends of conversations. It doesn't treat you like a fool. Which is where it's Mensa sponsor reputation comes from. It makes the film's in-your-face but unnecessarily so bits jarring. WEDGE. In contrast, and with unintentional puns, the subtlety of the bullet was superb.
Seek out the 1979 television adaption. If you can't find it I can borrow the DVD from my Dad. Then ask me for the sequel and complete your life. They are both absolutely fantastic and I'd watch them again with you.