Tag Archives: George Smiley

Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The first time I saw Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (when it first came out) it was lost on me, I felt detached from it, unable to connect and, dare I say, bored. That’s what revisits are for though and the second time I found rich psychological detail, achingly beautiful character relationships, beautifully burnished cinematography and one tantalizing Rubik’s cube of a narrative that, yes, is still tough for me to comprehensively understand but is rich in treasures of emotional depth, poetic tragedy and minuscule splashes of darkest humour amongst the sardonic helpings of dry espionage. Gary Oldman is sly and terrific in a study of low key tenacity as George Smiley, a veteran MI6 bigwig tasked by twitchy Mission Control (John Hurt, brilliant as ever) to find a decades long Soviet mole amidst their ranks. It could be one of a few higher ups, played by the prolific likes of Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, David Dencik and others. It proves to be quite the hurdle as this traitor has burrowed himself so deeply within their ranks that he himself is perhaps confused what side he belongs to anymore. Smiley uses a rookie field operative (Benedict Cumberbatch, excellent) to sniff around and is carefully watched by a regional honcho played by Simon McBurney, a very unsettling little fellow who can turn the simple act of buttering dry toast into a devilish interrogation tactic and is the last dude you want to be ‘carefully watched’ by. The great Mark Strong has a wonderful extended bit as a long burned out former operative with deep ties to MI6 and a haunted past, his arc is very special here. My favourite aspect of the film has to be Tom Hardy as a double agent who falls hard for a mysterious Russian girl (Svetlana Khodvhenkova) he’s surveilling. He’s the perfectly tragic example of a hopeless romantic who discovers he’s gravely in the wrong line of work and wants out before it’s too late. All of these characters move about greyest London and other parts of Europe like chess pieces, and indeed the metaphor becomes literal when Hurt’s Control uses an actual chessboard to illustrate to Smiley just who he’s dealing with and how formidable each potential opponent might just be. The film is grey, drab, washed out, lived in and wearily opaque to evoke a paranoid, sad postwar setting but despite the inherent gloom drenching everything I found the aesthetic to be quite strikingly beautiful. Same goes for the themes and emotional content: these opaque characters hold their emotions close to the chest and as such appear icy, ambiguous and heartless yet it’s beneath that the we see their humanity, not in dialogue or direct action but in glances, quiet moments, slow revelations and half noticed interactions between words. Oldman, Strong, Firth and Hardy are the four standouts in an impossibly well tailored cast of deep cut talents, they’re the four legs of the table to watch for in order to ascertain the strange elixir of this film’s essence and get the most of it. Just don’t expect to absorb everything the first time round, this is a deeply layered, multifaceted, strange beast of a film that likely takes many viewings (this was only my second) to fully settle in. See if you can catch references to everything from John Carpenter’s The Thing to 007 to the Coen Brothers to even the bible while also soaking up the pure class and originality it possesses all its own. Great film.

-Nate Hill

SBIFF Maltin Modern Master Awards Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman is charming. He’s effortless and he’s incredibly affable, which is a stark contrast to many of the prickly characters he’s most well known for playing. He spoke with Leonard Maltin for a little under two hours before the dapper and coarse Ben Mendelsohn presented him with the Maltin Modern Master Award.

Oldman said it was seeing Malcom McDowell in THE RAGING MOON that lit the burning desire for him to pursue a career in acting, which led to Oldman being turned down by a premiere drama school in England where a lot of the greats had studied, including Peter O’Toole.

Oldman spoke about how he fanboy gushed over John Hurt while working with him on TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, Anthony Hopkins during the filming of DRACULA, and over Denzel Washington while working with him on the set of THE BOOK OF ELI.

A very charming moment in the show was when Maltin showed a clip from a Harry Potter film, and Oldman went on to speak about his fondness for the young co-stars he worked with and how they were like a family, and he watched them grow up over the course of ten years. It was a very special period of his career for him, stating that his fanbase went from forty year olds to ten year olds overnight.

During the filming of BATMAN BEGINS, Oldman attributed James Gordon’s world weariness to jetlag, due to the fact that he was flying from LA to England a day or two at a time to film his scenes, not staying on set due to the fact of being a single dad and raising his two young sons.

Maltin asked Oldman about his character of George Smiley, and asked if he would be playing him again. He responded with an almost certain yes, telling Maltin that he really loved playing Smiley, and missed that character dearly. Asked about his preparation for Smiley, Oldman said that he was overly particular on the glasses his character would be wearing, and that he tried on at least one hundred pairs before settling on the pair that was used in the film.

When asked about his many accents he’s used, from Dracula to Churchill, Oldman said he uses not a voice coach, but an opera singer to condition his voice to drop or gain octivs, and once he is done filming said character he essentially unlearns how to speak that way, saying it’s like a muscle and that he can no longer recreate the Dracula voice or his Churchill voice on command.

Ben Mendelsohn was there to present Oldman with the Maltin Modern Master Award once the Q&A was finished. Mendelsohn gave a speech only he could give with his token outback roughness and lewd wit, speaking of Oldman’s many masterpiece performances and how he is one of his idols.

Gary Oldman is a cinematic treasure. He has crisscrossed many aspect of film from hard independent pictures, genre films, as well megabudget franchises. His latest turn as Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR will surely award him the Best Actor Oscar, which for a performer like Oldman an Academy Award is long overdue.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY -A Review by Frank Mengarelli

“We are not so very different, you and I. We’ve both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another.”

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY is a film I have watched countless times, and a film I look forward to constantly revisiting. It’s easily one of my favorite films of recent years. It’s a simmering, taut film that is masterfully constructed with painstaking detail.

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Tomas Alfredson creates a lived in world of spy v spy. Timelines are blurred, present day and the past intermingle throughout the duration of the film, and all we can do is absorb it. The cast is remarkable; each actor is laid upon Alfredson’s pallet, and he takes his time softly brushing each one across the screen.

Gary Oldman is in top form, giving his most low key performance as George Smiley, the master spy. Oldman spends a majority of the film silently lurking, watching, listening; stealthily seeking the traitor in their midst. Colin Firth cashes in on his career’s worth of affability, slyly charming his way throughout the film.

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Alfredson, along with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoyteman and production designer Maria Djurkovic build a smoky and dreary world of moral ambiguity in which the characters hide in the shadows, and enter into a game that has already been resolved before it begins.

The film’s ending is as heartbreaking as it is rewarding, resolving just enough to satisfy the audience, but desperately leaving us wanting more. While certain events of the film are closed, there is so much more to be told. The beauty of the craftsmanship of TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY is that it shows us very little, yet tells us everything.

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