Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Case for Tinkering with the 70s

As I have mentioned many times, I love the Embassy Cinema.  And seeing long, slow and classically-styled movies there always feels to me so... right.

Such was the case with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on the book of the same name.  The book is a cold war spy novel classic, and is based on a lot of behind closed doors cloak and dagger dealings rather than the frenetic pacing of one man taking on the bad guys.

As such, it is slow.  As the opening credits rolled, and rolled, and rolled, I was a bit concerned that the pace would be geologic, but once the scene of bleak 1970s Britain is set, and the ever awesome John Hurt is dispatched in a non-chest-bursting way, Gary Oldman takes over (with his very Queen's accented English) and things get underway, albeit slowly - just not as slowly as before.

It's a fairly straight forward story, told in an understated beige way that feels very bleak.  London is made to look more cold and concrete than Communist Budapest, a deliberate attempt perhaps to make both sides of the Iron Curtain look equally as attractive, or unattractive as the case may be.

The understated performances are all brilliant though.  Of course, Oldman is magnificent, and he is supported by a long list of top British thesping talent, including the well recognised Colin Firth, the in-almost-everything-these-days Mark Strong, punching bag Tom Hardy (where is Warrior by the way?), potty mouthed Kathy Burke, and new boy TV Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, who gets to do all the "fun spying" stuff and drive everyone around in his classic gold Citroen.

I can't really say too much about the story as it would risk ruining it, but it is told well and without too much hurry.  It makes the spy business look almost ordinary, a paper pushing exercise but one that can have deadly real world results.  And MI5 do seem to have awesome Christmas Parties too.

Verdict:  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was another film from a different age.  A spy movie that is low tech, light on action, but heavy on politics and human frailties, it is a really good film that deserves the big audience it got that night.  8.5 spies out of 10.

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