Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) - Source: IMDb

Quite a while ago, Book Boy talked to me about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TTSS; 2011). It has taken us a while to get round to watching it.

Our household tends to gravitate towards action, horror and sci-fi movies, anything with chop-socky, zombies, Jean-Claude Van Damme, or monsters. It’s an eclectic palette. And kind of timeless (I sez…).

Most recently, we’ve been immersed in The Walking Dead, Sherlock and Firefly TV series. Plenty to like and keep us fixated in those shows, even though I’m deeply unimpressed with the many of the main characters in The Walking Dead and wouldn’t mind a few of them ending up as walker tacos.

Committing ourselves to a serious movie, one that takes a bit to draw us into the narrative, was something we hadn’t done for a while.

Even so, I found TTSS extremely hard to get into, despite the stellar cast and – on paper – riveting narrative of spies, double-crossing and clever secrets. The acting was considered and nuanced, and we’re given plenty of time to appreciate each glare and jibe.

The pacing of the entire film was gentle, even when nothing particularly gentle was happening on the screen. No doubt the film was beautifully made, with finely detailed recreations of the pedestrian and highly unattractive 1970s secret service offices and officers.

There was a meandering and pensive air about the film that one doesn’t find in many spy movies. I would suggest that’s because meandering and pensive doesn’t really engage very well and a spy movie audience needs to be engaged to stay with the sometimes twisting storyline and character flips. Well, I do, anyway.

Today, while lunching in some glorious April sunshine in St Kilda, I discussed the film with various family members. They were unimpressed and bewildered by the film in general. My sis was particularly incensed that the whole movie didn’t feel like it had ended properly before the credits rolled. The sheer weight of implied information left us feeling like we’d come up short in the insight stakes.

I know Book Boy is very keen on John Le Carre‘s books; I must admit to barely remembering reading one. I do remember hunting down his newly published books for my father, who was a big fan; he also loved Martin Cruz Smith and Robert Ludlum. These blockbusters made birthday and Christmas presents very easy. Because they were my father’s favourite kinds of books, I’ve always had a soft spot for them, even though I’ve read no Cruz Smith and only one Ludlum (I think).

Having found myself at sea with the film, however, I’m contemplating reading the book. Maybe it will provide the plot details that will allow some narrative lightbulbs to flare. I’m not big on spy novels per se, even though I did like reading Jeffery Deaver’s Carte Blanche (Stephanie Merritt’s review in The Guardian captures the reasons why I liked it, as someone who has watched many Bond movies but hasn’t necessarily read Ian Fleming).

I never thought I’d find a movie that starred Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds, and John Hurt disappointing, but there it is.


2 thoughts on “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

  1. oanh 16/04/2012 / 6:33 pm

    I thought this movie was great – but then, I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for slow movies in which almost everything is implied! I just loved the scene where Benedict leaves his partner. (and I’ve never read any Le Carre, though my partner has and he is a big fan. He thought the transition from book to movie was well done but again, slow movie fan. That’s not to say I don’t also like big blockbuster explosion movies…)

    The whole movie, though, reminded me of a skit by Eddie Izzard about the difference between British and US movies. Do you know the skit?

    But have you seen the other movie directed by this same director – it might be more to your taste? It is Let the Right One In – Swedish vampire movie. All kinds of awesome. Watch it! (Although, do your kiddies watch the horror? LtROi might be a bit adult; there are clear and fairly disturbing implications of paedophilia, although perhaps that might also just go over their heads and the rest of the story about bullying will work.)

  2. oanh 16/04/2012 / 6:36 pm

    Looky here – it’s on youtube!
    (sorry to be spammy)

    British film – Room with a View. Staircases.
    US film – Room with a View OF HELL! Staircase OF DOOM!

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