Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Jacques Audiard Wants Magic, Not Realism, in His César Nominee 'Dheepan' Jacques Audiard Wants Magic, Not Realism, in His César Nominee 'Dheepan' How John Ridley and Company Create the Emotional Resonance of 'American Crime' How John Ridley and Company Create the Emotional Resonance of 'American Crime' WATCH: Surreal, Macabre 'The Lobster' Has a Darkly Comic New Trailer (Review & Roundup) WATCH: Surreal, Macabre 'The Lobster' Has a Darkly Comic New Trailer (Review & Roundup) POLL: Which Movie Advertised During the Super Bowl Are You Most Excited to See? POLL: Which Movie Advertised During the Super Bowl Are You Most Excited to See? Top 10 Takeaways:  'Hail, Caesar!' Leads Three New Releases—Which Barely Total $20 Million Top 10 Takeaways: 'Hail, Caesar!' Leads Three New Releases—Which Barely Total $20 Million Inside the Directors Guild Awards Inside the Directors Guild Awards Screen Talk: Sundance Wrap — and How the SAG Awards Shape the Oscar Race Screen Talk: Sundance Wrap — and How the SAG Awards Shape the Oscar Race Pixar's 'Inside Out' Seizes Oscar Momentum After Topping Annie Awards
Pixar's 'Inside Out' Seizes Oscar Momentum After Topping Annie Awards Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Should Win the VFX Oscar Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Should Win the VFX Oscar Watch Slamdance Selections 'Coming To' and 'Courtesan,' Thanks to Digital Bolex and Seed&Spark (EXCLUSIVE) Watch Slamdance Selections 'Coming To' and 'Courtesan,' Thanks to Digital Bolex and Seed&Spark (EXCLUSIVE) How Sony Pictures Classics Picked Up Four Pictures at Sundance How Sony Pictures Classics Picked Up Four Pictures at Sundance Sundance: Wall Street Movie 'Equity' Starring Anna Gunn Was Made by Women for Women Sundance: Wall Street Movie 'Equity' Starring Anna Gunn Was Made by Women for Women How They Edited the Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road' How They Edited the Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road' 'Anomalisa' Filmmakers on Animated Sex, Their 'Impossibly Low' Budget, and the Sad Impatience of the Studio System 'Anomalisa' Filmmakers on Animated Sex, Their 'Impossibly Low' Budget, and the Sad Impatience of the Studio System Alejandro G. Iñárritu on Leading Oscar Nominee 'The Revenant': "This was a film that easily could kill you" Alejandro G. Iñárritu on Leading Oscar Nominee 'The Revenant': "This was a film that easily could kill you" WATCH: Oscar Nominee Tom Hardy Explains Why Shooting 'The Revenant' Was So Bloody Hard (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) WATCH: Oscar Nominee Tom Hardy Explains Why Shooting 'The Revenant' Was So Bloody Hard (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) Why 'The Revenant' Was Not Eligible to Compete for the Oscar for Original Score Why 'The Revenant' Was Not Eligible to Compete for the Oscar for Original Score How They Pulled Off the 'Spectre' of Death Opening in Mexico City How They Pulled Off the 'Spectre' of Death Opening in Mexico City Nicolas Cage Boards Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' Nicolas Cage Boards Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' Ten Hot Movie Pairings to Look Forward to in 2015 (Trailers) Ten Hot Movie Pairings to Look Forward to in 2015 (Trailers)

Venice Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Is Good, Not Superb Spy Thriller

Photo of Matt Mueller By Matt Mueller | Thompson on Hollywood September 5, 2011 at 9:00AM

Matt Mueller reviews Tomas Alfredson's Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, which made its world premiere in Venice. “Trust no one,” says John Hurt, in fine fettle here as British spymaster Control, in the early stages of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In the case of the talent behind this top-class adaptation, they’re words not to be heeded. Attempting to rival the BBC’s superior 1979 serialisation of John Le Carre’s espionage classic – about the hunt for a Soviet mole in the British secret service (‘The Circus’, as Le Carre dubs it) – with a two-hour movie that couldn’t possibly bring the same depth or subtlety may have seemed a foolhardy proposition to many, but the talent wrangled for the mission is magnificently trustworthy.
1
Thompson on Hollywood

Matt Mueller reviews Tomas Alfredson's Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy, which made its world premiere in Venice.

“Trust no one,” says John Hurt, in fine fettle here as British spymaster Control, in the early stages of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In the case of the talent behind this top-class adaptation, they’re words not to be heeded. Attempting to rival the BBC’s superior 1979 serialisation of John Le Carre’s espionage classic – about the hunt for a Soviet mole in the British secret service (‘The Circus’, as Le Carre dubs it) – with a two-hour movie that couldn’t possibly bring the same depth or subtlety may have seemed a foolhardy proposition to many, but the talent wrangled for the mission is magnificently trustworthy.

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, hot off the impressive child-vampire thriller Let The Right One In, makes an ideal candidate to handle Tinker’s chilly, melancholic intrigue and serve up a dispassionate portrait of miserable, paranoid spies. Gary Oldman too is an actor with the finely calibrated talent to wipe memories of Alec Guinness’ iconic performance as George Smiley, the nondescript intelligence analyst whose sad, drab exterior masks a fluent, animated intellect. Pile on a helping of stellar British thesps with career heat to burn (Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong and Toby Jones) and this makes for compelling adult entertainment.

Alfredson’s approach to Le Carre’s tale is diligent, honourable, astute, a carefully executed whodunit that captures the stark drabness of early ‘70s Cold War Britain (the hair, suits and skin pallor all marvellously dreary), contains a clutch of nail-biting sequences and features a razor-sharp turn from Oldman as the doleful spy brought in from the cold to unmask whichever one of his former colleagues is leaking secrets to the Russians. Besides Oldman, it’s Hardy who makes the biggest impression, bringing a touch of humanity to this barrel of cold public-school fish as Ricky Tarr, the anxious working-class operative with vital information. Cumberbatch, too, has great fun as Smiley’s trusted inside man.

There’s no doubt Alfredson could have used more running time simply to give a proper airing to all four potential traitors – Tinker (Jones), Tailor (Firth), Soldier (Hinds) and Poor Man (David Dencik) – and thus keep the audience guessing a while longer. Fans of the genre will finger the culprit early and without that added layer of suspicion, the big reveal is left feeling perfunctory, almost blasé. Minus that last cathartic gasp, Tinker Tailor Solder Spy settles for being a very good as opposed to a superb spy thriller.


This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Headliners, Studios, Reviews, Thriller, Books, Colin Firth, Universal/Focus Features


E-Mail Updates






Festivals on TOH



Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.