I read about one blogger’s experience of going to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and how showing up a few minutes late cost him dearly. On screen, he didn’t miss anything important arriving before the beginning credits finished, but what he missed was the cheat sheet. This particular theater gave its Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy viewers info packets to look over before the movie began. It included keywords, character descriptions and important, unexplained spy slang (known on Wikipedia as “Tradecraft jargon”). Where I went to see the movie, we were not offered that kind of luxury, but then again, I’m not sure how much it would have helped anyways.
Before I go any further, I would like to direct your eyes to the picture below, because this, more than anything can help describe what this movie is all about. Its shows the most important part of the movie-
- old men in suits sitting around a table drinking whiskey and thinking. This group of men is known as the Circus, which according to the ‘Tradecraft jargon’ on Wikipedia’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy page is “the in-house name for MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service [of Great Britain] who collect foreign intelligence. ‘Circus’ refers to the (fictional) locale of the headquarters in Cambridge Circus, London.” The men who sit at that table are some of the best spies in the world, and they have some big worries on their plate. First off, this is the 1970s and with the Cold War looming, they must do everything they can to prevent a World War III with the Soviets. On top of that, they find out that one of the men at this table is actually a double agent working for the Soviets. They don’t know who but they know he exists. To help uncover the mole, the Circus recruits a retired member, George Smiley, played by Gary Oldman who recently received an Oscar nomination for the performance.)
With World War III threats and Soviet spies, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy seems to possess the necessary elements of any good James Bond movie. Saying that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a spy-thriller would be correct, but this might be a little misleading. I’m sure any James Bond fans that came out to see the movie in spite of the recent 007 movie drought saw few similarities to their favorite British spy. And I will admit if James Bond was one of the spies sitting at this table, there would have been much less sitting around and talking. George Smiley, who is probably twice the age of James Bond, is never seen chasing down enemies on foot or evading them in an Aston Martin. Instead Mr. Smiley takes a much more methodical approach to uncovering the mole. The majority of the movie revolves around his visits and interrogation with past and present MI6 officials. In the entire movie, I don’t recall Smiley’s pace ever reaching a brisk walk.
But it is exactly this different type of spy in George Smiley which makes Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy such a joy to watch. Director Thomas Alfredson, adapting the John le Carré novel of the same name, doesn’t try and conform to the spy genre by throwing in a bunch of random action sequences for the viewers’ sake. It’s a well crafted visual experience from a That being said, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy more than any other spy movie, is probably the most accurate account of what spies really do. What goes on in the picture above is a frequent occurrence in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Alfredson’s grim Cold War cinematography is top notch and I was very surprised not seeing his name or cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema in the Oscar nominations. Many times throughout the film, I found myself starring at the screen in awe of every little detail the two manage to put on screen. It’s a shame the Academy does not agree. While it’s not always heart pounding action, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy demands constant attention to the story which is as complex as it gets. It’s the type of movie that probably needs to be seen twice to fully understand what actually went on. Being able to understand the entirety of the film would be great, but having the opportunity to experience Alfredson’s Cold War ambiance again is enough to have me see it again.