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With: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, David Dencik, Kathy Burke, Stephen Graham, Simon McBurney, Tom Hardy, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Christian McKay, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Konstantin Khabensky
Written by: Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan, based on a novel by John le Carré
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language
Running Time: 127
Date: 05/09/2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Service with Smiley

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most spy movies tend to rely mostly on dialogue and exotic locations to tell their complex stories. But based on a novel by John le Carré -- which was also made into a 1979 mini-series starring Alec Guinness -- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy gets by on subtlety. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, who makes his English language debut, maintains an intricate balance here. And Gary Oldman, walking in Guinness's formidable shoes, gives a truly great, reserved performance.

During the Cold War, following a blown operation in Hungary, in which a British Intelligence agent is shot, former agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is pulled out of retirement. His task is to find a mole planted deep within the ranks of MI6. He faces tough opposition from the men in charge, and can trust nobody aside from his young assistant Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch). Can Smiley follow the subsequent elaborate and complex trail without alerting the mole?

Unlike many spy movies, there's very little shooting or chasing. The color scheme is muted and industrial, where even a hot cup of tea doesn't quite cut through the gloom. In many scenes, characters just seem to be sitting in rooms and talking. It sounds dull, but instead it's one of the year's best films, adding glorious layers and tones to each moment, and building on moods and silences so that the exciting moments mean all that much more. Indeed, this quiet movie generates more suspense than a hundred chases and shootouts.
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