Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy

I had an unexpected night off while in Australia and decided to go see Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy (TTSS), a film I had been anticipating ever since seeing the trailer months before. The movie, which is a Cold War era spy film, boasted one of the most impressive casts ever assembled, at least in my opinion, including Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy.

Now, I must admit that I had heard some mixed reviews on the film. Some called it a “masterpiece” while others said it was unbearably slow. I went in with a lot of patience, and when I emerged after the viewing, I was conflicted as to what I had just seen. Yes, TTSS is extremely slow and lacks the action one might expect in a spy film, but in its own way, it was engaging and a mental challenge.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like watching TTSS, but I liken it to observing a chess match. While not particularly action packed, there is a hidden war going on between the players, each with their own agenda. If you have a sharp mind and know a bit about the game, you might find a match particularly thrilling and nerve-wracking, while a layman might find it rather monotonous and boring. TTSS isn’t a movie for everyone; in fact, two people walked out of the theater during the showing, and I couldn’t help but think many of my friends would do the same. On the other hand, someone who likes a good mental game may actually find the film enjoyable. I consider myself one of the latter.

The best part of the film, as I expected, was the cast of characters. Gary Oldman plays the role of Smiley, a recent fired member of England’s top spy agency. He is recruited to investigate the possibility of a mole in his former place of employment, and Oldman does a tremendous job in the film, which is par for the course. While I think Oldman was great, all he basically did was portray a tiresome, well-composed, and emotionless old man. He did it well, but I never forged an emotional attachement to Smiley. I’ve heard Oldman's name mentioned in connection with a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards, but I’m not sure his character warrants the nod.

Other actors who did their jobs superbly were Colin Firth as "Bill Haydon/Tailor," John Hurt as “Control,” and Tom Hardy as “Ricki Tar." Hurt is a veteran of the big screen (I loved him in V for Vendetta), while Hardy is one of Hollywood’s best up-and-comers, and of course there is Firth, who excels in every role that he takes.

If I had to say one negative thing about the film, it would be the lack of Ciran Hinds, who played "Roy Bland" in the film. I consider Hinds one of the most underrated actors in both film and television, and it’s a shame to see him in this role, namely that he barely has any screen time and offers just a few lines of dialogue. If you’ve ever seen HBO’s Rome, where Hinds plays Julius Caesar, you know what I’m talking about as far as his talent is concerned and why I feel this was a missed opportunity on director Tomas Alfredson’s part.

TTSS is a sophisticated movie driven by dialogue and the performances of its cast. If you’re looking for a mind numbing spy movie, this isn’t for you (try Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), but if you like a mystery/thriller that is mentally challenging and stimulating, then I think you will find it satisfying.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 72%

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