Movie Review

January 19, 2012

'Tinker Tailor' dense, dark, deadly slow

Tired of explosions, car chases, gun fights and pulse-pounding action? Sick of glitz, glamour and sex appeal?

For those who like more spy — and less thrill — in their spy thrillers, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" may just be the perfect fit.

Unfortunately, I expect that won't be a high percentage of the population.

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" is the type of movie only a critic could love. It's beautifully filmed and perfectly performed by a talented cast, but it's also dense, dark, deadly slow and probably largely incoherent to someone who hasn't already read the John le Carre novel.

Gary Oldman heads the cast as George Smiley, an aging spy forced into retirement by British Intelligence, but pulled back in to help ferret out a suspected mole during the heart of the Cold War.

One of four men at the top — played by Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones and David Dencik — is leaking info to the Soviets, and the former insider Smiley has to figure out who.

Oldman is excellent as Smiley, the epitome of understatement. Don't expect a whiff of James Bond. He's subdued, sedate … practically motionless. He doesn't pull a gun or leap out a window, but somehow manages to convey messages with a slight adjustment of his eyeglasses while sitting in an easy chair.

Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes") gives some strong support as an agent victimized by a mission gone very wrong. Tom Hardy ("Inception") is one of the few people showing any emotion as Ricki Tarr, one of the men who does the dirty work for MI6. Benedict Cumberbatch (from the BBC version of "Sherlock Holmes") is also good as a young agent working with Smiley.

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" was previously explained in a much-lauded six-hour miniseries, but here all the characters and plot twists and tiny machinations are stuffed into two gloomy hours filled with confusing flashbacks.

There's much bickering and bureaucracy, and before long it all bogs down. It would probably take a second viewing to figure everything out, but there's honestly not enough payoff to make it worth sitting through again.

Rental Recommendation: Get your heart moving again with the excellent series wrap-up "The Bourne Ultimatum." Grade: A-

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