Friday, December 23, 2011
Winter Preview UPDATE Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
You know when you watch a film and you can tell that the film will just get better and better every time you watch it. That somehow the director has tapped into celluloid biology and created a living thing that will evolve over time and give you something different each time you return to it. Tomas Alfredson had an amazing debut with Let The Right One In(brilliant vampire film, fuck you twilight I won't even capitalize your title), and boy does he deliver on the promise he created with his first film. Tinker Tailor is a meticulously crafted web of deceit and betrayal as Alfredson weaves his spy tale with the deft hand of a master composer. Rooted in an understated but brilliant performance by Gary Oldman as George Smiley coming out of retirement to find a mole on the circus(top echelons of British Intelligience), Alfredson's film is a magnificent success on all fronts. Brilliantly subtle script, amazing set design, beautiful cinematography and another stand out score from Alberto Iglesias.
Subtle is definitely the word for this film. No flash, no gadgets, this is manipulation, shady deals, wire tapping, false deaths and so on. Completely at the other end of the spectrum than Mission Impossible. The performances are no different. Everyone brings their A game with John Hurt in the lead as the cantankerous and absurdly paranoid Control. He starts this mission with a botched operation in Budapest where Mark Strong walks into the wrong cafe. Speaking of which, Mark Strong is not the bad guy and it is so refreshing to see him flex his wings on the other side of sin. He plays a great field agent and the parallels between his veteran agent and Tom Hardy's up and coming are brilliant. They are the two characters most driven by a moral code, seemingly following their heart more than anyone in the film, which leads to them being the most restless.
Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, everyone brings their A game and in a story so complicated its amazing that each of them are memorable. Make no mistake, this is Oldman's film. He owns every frame he's in and half the time he doesn't even have any lines. Oldman has made understated brilliance with this character. He is just as deceitful and manipulative but he does it with such ease that he fools the audience most of the time. And behind those eyes we see all of his many years of service, we see his determination to bring down those who would ruin that which he devoted his life for. There is a lie he tells Tom Hardy at one point, and it is so heartless an done with such ease that you really see how amazing a spy Smiley is. It's a testament to Cumberbatch that he holds his own against Oldman playing his new partner, Cumberbatch proves he's not just Sherlock but turning in some solidly restrained work here.
Let The Right One In was a great film, but even it's detractors(crazy people mostly) can't deny Alfredson mastery of atmosphere. With the help of some immaculate set design Alfedson's film constantly takes us back to cold war era 70s and uses the setting to reflect the lives of our characters. Living in gorgeous locales with beautiful architecture, only to reveal forgettable rooms, hidden cameras, and listening devices. Nothing is ever as it seems in Alfredson's film. He captures a moment in time and then peels back the layers as our protagonist dig for the truth.
This is an incredible follow up and absolute announcement that Alfredson is a director to watch. Moody, expertly acted, brilliantly shot giving us the feeling of peering around corners, and a tight script make this one of the best of the year. If you love spy films, then you've already seen this and love it. Now it's just a matter of how high on the list it goes.
One last thought - Alberto Iglesias did the score for The Skin I Live In as well, and just like that film, his score reinforces everything you see on screen without ever distracting. It is at once beautiful and restrained, much like the film itself.