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Monday, January 2, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Limited Release Date: 12-9-2011)

        A lot of movies think that their audience are a bunch of idiots. Just the last movie I reviewed, as it so happens, was banking pretty hard on the general foolishness of its viewers. These movies have their characters repeat the same narrative point over and over again, try to prompt extreme emotional reactions without giving you much reason for feelings them, and largely ignore the glaring holes and issues with their plot. It's a mistake most often committed by Hollywood's, 'for the masses,' entertainment, which is exactly why, for a lot of people, independent movies are the only ones worth seeking out. Because a movie like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won't treat you like an idiot. On the contrary, it thinks that you are an absolute genius.

        Adapted from famed author John le Carré lengthy, canonical novel of the same name, Tinker tells the story of George Smiley, a disgraced former member of the British Secret Service (Here referred to primarily as, 'The Circus') who is brought in for one last mission. Information has arisen suggesting that one of the men at the very top of the Circus, be they the conniving, power-hungry Percy Alleline (Tobey Jones), suave man-of-class Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), stoic strong-man Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), or nervous follower Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), has been leaking intelligence to the Soviets. It's Smiley's duty, along with his trusty side-kick Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), to uncover the mole, and save the Circus from certain disaster.

        If the thought has even entered your mind that this might be too many character to keep track of, you're still only seeing the tip of the ice burg. There's no limit to just how many persons the viewer is tasked with keeping track of, no fewer than 20 names rattled off with familiarity, the movie expecting you to have heard, interpreted, and stored each and every last morsel of the mystery, moving forward without bothering to tell you twice. At first, this method is involving in interesting, but it only takes one piece of missed information to render the rest of the film nearly incomprehensible. The manner in which TTSS plays out would tempt one to think that the makers of the film simply expected each and every single viewer to have pre-existing exposure to the material, a choice that is a massive disservice to all those who don't, myself included.

        In many ways, this is very strong film-making. Tomas Alfredson, directing only his second feature following his stellar debut, Let the Right One In, is a master of the composed image, each shot textured and designed to fussed-over perfection. The acting is also uniformly strong, Oldman scaling down his general over-acting into a character who makes Ryan Gosling's The Driver seem like a chatter box, his silence nearly impossible to turn away from. So, yes, there are several things the recommend the movie on, and if you're a certified wunderkind, or have a pencil and a scratch-sheet of paper to write on, you might like it more than I did. This viewer left the film feeling dizzy and sadly, wishing that the movie hadn't had so very much faith in his ability to keep up.

Grade: B-

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