Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – The Spy Who Stayed in the Cold

Forget the dashing, good looking, heroic, muscled up James Bond with beautiful women and hair raising car chases: real British spies in the 70’s were bland or ordinary looking, but still cold, scheming people, who would betray, or even kill their compatriots if the need would arise. In John Le Carré’s spy novels realism was always the most important aspect and this movie is a perfect adaption of Le Carré’s work.

So besides glamour, what we have here is the painstakingly precise description of the early 70’s cold war era. Besides London, we will see other countries of this era, for example it was fun for me to see Budapest from this era, since growing up as a small child in this country.

As with other Le Carré’s novels (The Spy Who Came From the Cold), the story is complicated, sometimes even convulsed, with many flashbacks, frequent allusions to people with codenames, who sometimes doesn’t even shows up, only later in the movie. It’s really a niche spy movie for “connaisseurs”, it resemblance to 70’s European spy themed film noir is obvious.


A mole in our ranks

As much is the story is complex, the main theme is still similar to others of its kind: there’s a mole in the ranks of the British Service Secret, and George Smiley (an impeccable Gary Oldman) must find the traitor between “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier and Spy”. The added spice to story is that he is himself among the suspects, since they were all “gathered” by his former boss. His cold, emotionless behavior only adds to the suspense: maybe is he the traitor himself.

I must still add that this kind of “suspense” isn’t for everyone, or rather: not everyone will find the movie suspenseful. There’s a lots of dialogues, and after the heart pounding first apparent murder in Budapest, the pace of the story slows down considerably. Even for those, who don’t expect a James Bond type spy action thriller, the movie can be boring.


Cold like scotch whiskey on ice

The cast is very good, with Gary Oldman as the main character, who’s only mistake maybe that he tried so much to be the perfect, bland George Smiley, that sometimes his acting feels a little mundane, still, there’s also a chilling coldness in his acts and behavior, which counterparts with his seemingly boring appearance. Besides Oldman we have a strong supporting cast, with an excellent John Hurt and Colin Firth, but other actors are all spot on as well.

If you like slow placed, European styled, film noir art movies, then you will have a blast with Tinker, Tailor, but still we won’t advise you to watch this movie tired: you might get asleep before knowing who the mole is.


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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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