Favorites: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by John le Carré, Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan
Produced by Liza Chasin, Olivier Courson, Ron Halpern, Debra Hayward, John le Carré, Peter Morgan, Douglas Urbanski, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo, Wolfgang Braun, Eric Heumann, Alexandra Ferguson
Starring Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, David Dencik, Toby Jones, Kathy Burke, John Hurt, Simon McBurney, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Ciarán Hinds
Every furtive twist and revelation distinguishing the tortuous plot of Le Carré's celebrated spy novel is enucleated with befitting understatement in this late feature adaptation that telegraphs not a hint to the uninitiated in its audience. Drab environs of '70s London, Budapest and Istanbul are credibly replicated with fine period design shot in high contrast sans adornment to emphasize a popular ensemble becoming to the dramatis personae so familiar to Le Carré's faithful readership. Renowned for his snarling, fulminatory histrionics, Oldman perforce forbears his overwrought M.O. to brilliantly underplay reticent cold warrior George Smiley with unflinching deliberation; the embattled yet tenacious retiree's incertitude, desperation and determination are scarcely insinuated by his nicest aspects in an interpretation of elliptic polish. Whenever pensive, imperiled or distraught, every counterspy and infiltrator's framed in Alfredson's fastidious composition through apertures, windows and enfilades, architectural rectilinearity signifying the sacrifices and social constraints they suffer to affirm their immurements of vocation and circumstance. If it's not the finest espionage picture, Tinker Tailor's elegance and insight is nearly unparalleled in the genre: no other movie's so thoroughly yet inexplicitly described espionage as a deficient succedaneum for a legitimate lifestyle, nor its artful agents and officers as so blindly fallible in spite of their perspicacity.