Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Directed by Tomas Alfredson


We watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy over three nights which had some effect on the cinematic experience: On the first night I was drawn into a great thrilling story with a wonderfully dry way of going about it. On the second night I struggled to remember the plot and then we took a break from the film for a day (too much baby crying etc) to confuse me more. At midnight Nick woke me up and said: 'now you have to help me, there is a black cat in our apartment'. So there really was. It was a kitten, in fact, fallen down from a balcony above and then in a mysterious way, having made her way into our living room. Let me tell you, for a second while getting up from bed to inspect the so called black cat, I thought Nick had gone insane.

On the following night (sans cat) we decided it was time to wrap up with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and I felt a little creepy remembering where we got to in the film. Into a cold violent spot. The DVD was missing though... It really was nowhere in our home. Nick declared that someone had been here and taken it. I guess he wasn't serious, but the black cat had only just left that morning (with her rightful carer) and me and my imagination got to feeling anxious. While I knew that the DVD could not just miraculously disappear, I panicked mixing the mystery of the black cat getting in with the contents of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and with the fact that the director had directed a movie called Let The Right One In... meanwhile Nick finally found the DVD from under a pile of CDs. And so neither of us was really actually mad.

So, we successfully finished the film and I felt elated because it didn't get too scary for me. I was also glad to manage a movie from beginning to end – Netflix has become my new daily companion and it allows for bad habits such as watching a film for 5 minutes and then forgetting it or moving on.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a good movie. It was like a good 1970s leather sofa in comparison to a sofa from IKEA; it was a quality scent compared to a celebrity one. Sadly, it did not change my life, which is my prerequisite for adoring a film.

Just this week, the head of the CIA had resigned after it was revealed he'd had an extramarital affair.
Do people in these positions actually think this kind of information can be perceived as a weakness? Can supposed enemies use this information? An obvious question I guess. A nudge is as good as a wink and all that. Thomas Alfredson's film supplies me with the answer I'm after. I remember the BBC adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alec Guinness in the main role of George Smiley), it was enjoyable and captured some of the 'old boys club' mentality of MI6. What Alfredson does here is add lots of off kilter atmosphere by which to hang some really excellent performances. Actually Alfredson does more than that, he brings a certain rarely shown era of English secrecy to life. Period detail, London grayness, public-school-secret-love. Even something matter-of-fact, like having a tea, can seem sinister. Alfredson brings some edge to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and then some.

It struck me as really refreshing to watch a film where you really don't know what is going on all the time and that film requires you to concentrate and follow closely. This doesn't spell anything out. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is really slow to develop, but holds the interest – there is always a creepy sense of suspense throughout the film. It helps when the acting is this good. Gary Oldman is this time in the Smiley seat, and his performance here is official notice that he's back as an A-list actor. After Nolan's Batman franchise (and his great policeman Gordon) Oldman has started to restore a career that had sailed wildly off course. It's been a long time since Oldman has starred centre stage in any significant film. Apart from the Harry Potter franchise the last 15 years or so have seen him in one trashy B-movie after the other. God he's good here! You get an almost sad feeling of what we've been missing. All the other recognized cast are up to the job, often with little to do and few lines (especially the case with Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Hardy and Kathy Burke).

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy just could be the best mainstream film I've seen in a long long time. Fincher's   Zodiac is the closest to this that I can think of recently. In fact, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a film that you can really compare to All the President's MenParallax View and other conspiracy pictures of the 1970's in a positive light. It's great there is an English counterpart at last (even if it took a Swede to make it). Alfredson is certainly one to watch ( I enjoyed Tinker... even more than his excellent Let The Right One In). That original horror movie is a good indicator of the mood Alfredson sets here. At the heart of this tale is Oldman, at last a safe pair of hands. Excellent.


  1. I went to see this at the cinema on a lazy Sunday afternoon last spring. Bad idea. Although I liked the set, actors and everything, the storyline was a bit too hard to concentrate on, when you kinda had a hangover and kinda had company that you wanted to concentrate more on than the movie, ahem. Anyway. I think I have to watch this again sometime!

  2. thanks for commenting June. Do watch again, as I think it opens up nicely if you follow the details.


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