|DVD Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Monday, 30 January 2012 13:04|
Director: Tomas Alfredson
"I'm retired." Those are the first words spoken by George Smiley (Oldman), and they don't occur until 15 minutes in. But even before then we've spent enough time with Tinker Tailor's hero to know what he's about. We see him forced out of MI5 ("The Circus") alongside the paranoid chief, Control (Hurt), and follow him home during the muted opening credits. Throughout, Smiley says nothing.
It's a hugely effective sequence that sees allegiances change, powers shift, and paperwork go up and down in a lift. Welcome to Tomas Alfredson's take on John le Carré's world. It's a quiet, tense, and stylish place to be betrayed. How British.
Smiley, now officially out of the service, is swiftly hired back by concerned minister Lacon (the excellent Simon McBurney) to investigate suspicions of a mole, right at the tippy top. Is it Percy (Jones)? He's small and Scottish. You can't trust Scottish people. Could it be Bill (Firth)? He's a suave man with a fancy taste in clothes. You can't trust a man who wears clothes. What about Roy (Ciarán Hinds)? He's brooding, withdrawn and has big eyebrows. Eyebrows are always a giveaway. Or perhaps it's Toby (David Dencik)? He's quietly running around between them all. No-one likes the quiet one.
Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor's script does a great job of distilling a complex narrative into 127 minutes. Of course, there are casualties. The first act is a bit jumpy, almost too afraid of the talky source material to stay in one location for more than a minute without someone crossing the street or getting out of a car. But once it settles, this is an impeccable piece of work.
Like Anton Corbijn and Joe Wright, Alfredson's eye for composition is excellent, always picking out small details like diverging train tracks and parallel stairwells. Even a muted gunshot is achingly beautiful in the restrained, tight-lipped atmosphere. When the stoic Smiley finally comes out of his shell for a lengthy monologue about Russia's own Keyser Soze, Karla, it's electric stuff.
Watching those around him with his giant glasses and pale face, Oldman's Oscar-nominated performance is weary yet immense. He remains detached - even as he visits his wife, we wait politely by the stairs - but his presence seeps into every scene as his world decays around him.
The rest of the cast deserve awards too. Hardy's rogue agent, Ricki Tarr, delivers a romantic subplot with a jaw-smacking tenderness, while Cumberbatch almost steals the film with a superb heist scene. Benedict's charming, sexy turn holds the film together as much as Alberto Iglesias's versatile, threatening score - the composer's second brilliant soundtrack this year.
Like the slow-burn BBC version, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's only problem is accessibility. With its demanding plot and wide cast of characters, Tinker, Tailor asks for our unwavering attention. And it gets it. The best part about having it on DVD? You can give it that same amount of attention over and over again. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? Tinker Tailor Blooming Marvellous.
For more spy-hunting goodness, play Tinker Tailor Whack-a-Mole.
5 Bonus Reasons to Buy the DVD
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy also comes with a stonking amount of DVD extras - the usual interviews with all the major cast and crew, UK premiere highlights, trailers and a commentary by Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman. But in addition to that you also get a smattering of deleted scenes (some extremely tender), a 30 minute interview - THIRTY WHOLE MINUTES - with John le Carré and some other impressive goodies.
Here are the top 5:
1. Gary Oldman cooks an egg
2. John le Carré's eyebrows
3. Tomas Alfredson's tie
4. You can see down Colin Firth's shirt
5. Free audiobooks of the other novels in The Karla Trilogy (well, the first chapter, anyway)
Those last five things alone are worth £20, let alone the actual film.