Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

Years ago I remember starting to read Smiley’s people, and having to give up because I hadn’t a clue what was going on. So you can imagine my surprise when I left the cinema having actually understood (more or less) what had happened in TTSS. Of course before I saw TTSS I didn’t know that the main character was that very same George Smiley, played with typical aplomb by Gary Oldman. Though for a while there I thought it may have been a silent performance from Gary, as he didn’t speak for ages.

In fact the whole cast is brilliant. I did like the way that alongside the fantastic old guard of John Hurt, Gary Oldman & Colin Firth, and the newer talent of Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, Mark Strong & Benedict Cumberbatch, was Kathy Burke, probably most famous for being one half of the slobs! There is also a nice cameo by Trigger (Roger Lloyd-Pack) as a sort of fixer. Of the roundly superb cast, I think that I was most impressed with Cumberbatch. He puts me in mind of a version of Brad Pitt from the 2001 Ocean’s 11 remake; with similar sharp suits to match.

In fact the whole of the film is very stylish, mostly. You would hope that on a salary from Her Majesty’s intelligence services, most people would be able to afford good clobber; however, all the agents look immaculate and beautifully turned out. They are definitely more the suave Dr No 007 than The Man with the Golden Gun’s crimes against fashion. Standing out again is Peter Guillam (Cumberbatch), who oozes espionage panache; undercover urbanity, if you will. However, set against the sharp-dressed men, are some very bad hair days. I’m not talking Donald trump here, they aren’t bad hairpieces, they’re obviously intentional 70s hairdos, they’re just awful that’s all. Tom Hardy and Mark Strong in particular have bad barnets.

There were a few moments when I lost the plot missed a plot point (according to my wife) but not crucially though. For instance, I hadn’t realised who the guy dying in hospital near the beginning was, and wondered why he had just disappeared from the film! In my defence, I was too busy admiring the beautiful photography of old London Town, well 70s London Town anyway. Needless to say, the film looks great, from the subtle colours of the London exterior, the bright colour of the sound-proof meeting room to the autumnal colours towards the end. Add to this the stylish fashion, and the film is really a feast for the eyes.

Wonderful acting, not as confusing a plot as you may imagine, and a generally beautiful film; excellent and understated. Very impressive from director Tomas Alfredson, (the Swedish guy who directed Let the Right One In), who seems to be directing his first English language film, and cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema (also of Let the Right One In).  A real breath of fresh air after all the summer blockbusters, especially given that it is mostly just a bunch of men talking.