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I should not have watched that. As a kid, I never watched the tv show when it was on, and I did not watch it in particular because German title really put me off (“Smileys Leute”). I was an astheticist from early on, even though I still do not know whether to spell it like that. Anyway… I never heard the English title until this movie was announced, and immediately thought that this is an even worse title for a movie than the German one. I did not even understand 25% of the words in it! The third downer came when I read that it was based on a novel by John Le Carre, which means it is a spy novel, which means it would be the least likely of all novels ever to be read by me. I think I have never ever read a spy novel. I do not like James Bond movies. Cold War stories are fun only when they are about hiding the microfilm in a body cavity and smuggling it from Krakow through Bucharest to Vienna, where the dead body of the microfilm mule will be found decoratively spread on a very well-lit wet pavement. That means I am not interested in the film’s story, I do not understand the references to other books or films or tv shows. In the case of “Tinker Tailor…”, I do not even understand the story. Usually within the first 20 minutes of a film, you will know where this is going, the plot has been outlined. Then you can lay back and enjoy the execution of the story. Not here: I got a bit distracted after 20 minutes, and when I paid attention again I did not have a clue where all these people were going and what they were doing. Luckily most if the scenes are lined up like a game designed for the annoyance of the Gary Oldman Character: he needs to go from one possible source to the next one, and sometimes you can understand what he is trying to achieve even without having followed the previous bits. Gratefully, Le Carree and the script authors also used some flashbacks that were very helpful in creating more confined areas of amusement, where it did not matter whether I knew why this person was blindfolded and tortured or the other one shot in the head.

It always takes a bit longer when I am trying to express that I have no idea whether the film was good or bad, but I can say that the film is very calm, very unexcited about its subject matter, and that is a very distinct Tomas Alfredson style. I was reminded of “Let The Right One In” in that it never looses its cool, the people never get very excited,  most actually never make it out of a melancholic  paralysis (maybe the Tom Hardy character excluded). Production design and costumes are fabulous – only that the result is a film that perfectly reflects the ghastly look and the dullness of the Cold War era. And of the spy profession, by the way, so I was right to always stay away from these movies…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/tinker_tailor_soldier_spy/

Thorough analysis of the … plot… here:  http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2012/01/23/tinker-tailor-a-guide-for-the-perplexed/

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent review Thomas – well written and argued as usual. I think Alfredson has made the conscious decision to favour an atmosphere of tension rather than plot-based tension. If that makes any sense. So I agree it is easy to get distracted and I won’t say that I didn’t also fall into this trap when I was looking for that real sense of danger (which perhaps isn’t present). But my interpretation of the Cold War was this idea of a perceived threat instead of a real one and I think Alfredson captures this thematically in Tinker. I wonder if a second viewing would help. Of course, it is hard to watch a film you haven’t enjoyed for a second time.

  2. you are perfectly right, of course. I believe everything was intentional, and in particular this atmosphere of … hm … threat and boredom? I absolutely see it as an achievement of masterful direction that the audience joins the characters in suffering the agony of nothing happening, while so much is at stake. And I also believe that my perception would greatly benefit from watching it again, because the whole thing is constructed in such an intellectual way that going back to the details (after merely experiencing the atmosphere the first time) can open the eyes. Not sure whether I am ready for that, though. Just thinking about it makes me cough from passive smoking… 🙂


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