Friday, January 20, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

John le Carré's spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy comes to the big screen in the 2011 release.  The story is set in 1973 at the height of the Cold War. The aptly named Control (played by John Hurt),  head of British Intelligence (MI6), sends agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) to Hungary to meet a  general who wishes to sell information about a double agent at the highest level of MI6 (the "Circus").  The operation is a disaster and Prideaux is shot.  The failure allows the Circus to force Control and his right hand man, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), into retirement.  Control dies soon after he leaves and, Smiley faces an uneasy future without his wife who has left him.

A new group takes control of the Circus headed by Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), with Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) as his deputy and Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds) and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) as part of the inner circle.  The basis of their success is due to apparently high-grade Soviet intelligence gathered under a program named "Witchcraft." "Witchcraft" provides an opportunity for the British Intelligence Service to gain access to US intelligence.

Smiley is brought out of retirement by Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney), the British official in charge of overseeing the Circus, to investigate new information about a molein a senior role in British Intelligence.  Lacon has received information from agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) confirming the suspicions of Smiley's old boss concerning a double agent. 

Smiley assembles a team to investigate the accusations.  When Smiley visits Control's home he discovers chess pieces with Control had codenamed the suspects "Tinker" (Alleline), "Tailor" (Haydon), "Soldier" (Bland), "Poorman" (Esterhase) and "Beggarman" (Smiley himself).

From this beginning the le Carré drama moves through a devious web of concealment to find the double agent. 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is true to the espionage genre.  It is a methodical search for a traitor who has dishonored his country and friends.   The slow pace of the movie may put some people off who are used to the fast-paced Mission Impossible series (see review of Ghost Protocol).  Gary Oldman is excellent in the role of George Smiley and could garner an Academy Award nominination.  The film and Mr. Oldman have been nominated for British film awards.  The supporting cast of British actors completes the ensemble cast.

I rank the movie

Please see the following links to John le Carré's books and films:

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