Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
I decided to watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (and even convinced my sister and aunt to join me) because I was looking for something firmly in the thriller category and I’d heard it was good. What I got instead was a movie with an initially inscrutable plot and a star-studded cast of exclusively white men (Gary Oldman, Colin Ferth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, etc.) whose acting was as dull and bleak as the color tones the film is washed in. Don’t get me wrong — the greys, blues, and browns were probably the right artistic choice for a spy film set in the Cold War — but there was no help coming in the form of visual effects when the rest of the plot, acting, and music were lacking.
The movie follows a retired MI6 veteran George Smiley as he tries to uncover the truth about a possible Soviet double agent within the agency. He and four other agents worked directly under “Control,” who in the years before his (natural) death became obsessed with a “mole” theory. But when Control sends an agent to Budapest to uncover the truth, the agent goes missing and is presumed dead.
The setup is clear enough, looking back on it, but the film’s exposition does very little to explain itself. There’s a natural learning curve with any spy story — the cloak-and-dagger secrecy of any good spy isn’t all too conducive to laying out details plainly — but the issue with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is this: as the fog begins to clear and the secrets of the clandestine become known, you realize the truth wasn’t worth the intrigue. There is no twist. It feels as if the story becomes softer as it goes (with the exception of a particularly brutal pair of torture and murder scenes in Soviet Russia).
Perhaps my view is too uncharitable, or this film wasn’t my taste. But in my mind, the value of this film seemed hidden away, its existence known but always out of reach, just as a spy would prefer to keep information and leave the rest of us dissatisfied.