Monday, 27 April 2015

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - film review

I've long been interested in spy fiction - when I was a small boy,I was given as a present The Spy's Bedside Book, an anthology by Graham and Hugh Greene, and that fuelled my interest in the genre. In recent years, though, my focus has been on detective fiction. However, partly as a result of getting to know the great Len Deighton, and partly through reading several spy thrillers on behalf of the British Library, my interest has been re-kindled.

So I looked forward to watching the film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, based on the classic novel by another great of the genre, John Le Carre (who began life, let it be remembered, as an author of detective fiction.) This version has been widely acclaimed, and the cast is superb. Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, and John Hurt, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds and Colin Firth are there too. Plus Kathy Burke. And even Le Carre himself in a "Hitchcock" type cameo. Wow...

I suspect, though, that if you didn't know the story,you might struggle to follow what is going on. Compressing such complex material into a film inevitably requires sacrifices, but I felt that there was too much mystification for the sake of it. And I also thought that it was odd not to devote more time to the relationship between George and his wife,which does have an important bearing on the plot and theme. I can see what the writers were trying to do,but for me it didn't quite work.

Nevertheless, this is a long film which is well worth following right to the end. Partly because of the story, but especially because the cast does such a good job with the material, cryptic though it is at times. Some people regard this film as a masterpiece. I'm not convinced it matches the quality of the original TV series, let alone the book, but it certainly deserves watching.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, Martin. Great film. Not the usual Bond/Bourne type film but a thoughtful slow burner. Had me hooked from the beginning

Robert Lopresti said...

I disliked it, largely because they simply ignored the cleverest part of the story: why were the non-traitors protecting the mole? In the film you never find out. Watch the Alec Guiness tv series. That was classic.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I think you are right that it is maybe too hard to follow if you are not familiar with the book (or at least the BBC miniseries) - I liked it a lot though

Robert (R.T.) Davis said...

Note: I read the lead in your posting, and I skipped immediately to the comments link without reading your posting and the other comments. Forgive me! But I am in the midst of reading LeCarre's novel, and I will return to your posting when I finish. BTW, I plan on working my way through all of LeCarre's novels. Who, I wonder, are the most likely suspects as challengers to LeCarre's claim as the #1 espionage author of the last fifty years. Any suspects out there?

harriet said...

I haven't read the book and found the film confusing on first watching. Second time around I really really liked it. Great cast, as you say.