Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: so good, the title doesn’t need commas


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is an espionage thriller directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the ma-hoosively popular book by John le Carré (fun fact, le Carré has a cameo as a party guest, watch out for him lulz!). George Smiley was once a member of the highest ranking members of MI6, the Circus, until a disastrous miscalculation leads to a major restructuring of said Circus. TTSS follows Smiley’s attempts to uncover the truth about what happened and why, but as his questions become more complex, so do the answers…

Gary Oldman Fact #1: Gary Oldman directed a music video for Jewish Hip-Hop group called Chutzpah which was shot entirely on mobile phones.

Of all the performances, it would seem that Gary Oldman’s has been the most critically lauded. While there is no doubt he is deserving of such praise, due to the nature of Oldman’s performance (Gary Oldman=George Smiley=Alec Guiness), the credit should really be shared among the ensemble cast, of which there isn’t a single inadequate performance. I was particularly impressed by Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy, who show off a strong grasp of their paranoid, confused characters that actors with years more experience should be envious of. John Hurt is also rather good, however I can’t help thinking the part would’ve been better suited to somebody else…

Gary Oldman Fact #2: For the 1990 film ‘Henry & June’, Gary Oldman was credited as Maurice Escargot for no apparent reason.

All of the characters in TTSS are trapped. They may think that they are free, but through their distorted loyalties and their lies, they have just as little perception of the world around them as the next man. Throughout the film there is a consistently narrow field of view; characters are trapped by their surroundings – we often see them only past doorways, through windows or blocked by walls. These scenes are juxtaposed with Alfredson’s use of extreme wide shots and long takes which adds to the voyeuristic atmosphere of the film, like we’re not supposed to be looking or listening in on their conversations. The film’s cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (I know, right?) established his talent, as did Alfredson, with the poetic rom-vamp art flick Let The Right One In in 2008 with its memorable visual undertones. With TTSP, Hoytema and Alfredson have shown their total dominance of the espionage genre, owing more to The Conversation and Fargo than the Bourne Trilogy. I came out of the film with, for the first time in my life, a strange desire to dress up in a brown trench coat, wait until a rainy day, go to a runway in the middle of nowhere and put on some big ole’ specs George Smiley style. Just me? Okay, moving on.

Colin Firth is also in it.

Gary Oldman Fact #3: in 1991, Gary Oldman was arrested for drunk driving.

What I love about this film is how Alfredson takes the source material and turns it into something of his own. Along with the sharp script, TTSS appreciates film as a visual medium, whether this be through those eavesdropping-style wide shots mentioned, or the extreme close ups of Gary Oldman’s lovely-please-be-my-surrogate-father type face. I find it genuinely refreshing to watch a spy film in which (SPOILERS) there are no 20 minute car chases, no fist fights, gun battles in the middle of the street or 50ft tall explosions. While I like all of these things very, very much, TTSS separates itself from what the modern spy movie has become by taking an appropriately gentle pace to let the plot unravel and the audience’s brains work overtime. That said, the stuntmen must’ve been pretty bored on set.

Gary Oldman Fact #4: Gary Oldman is an anagram of ‘A Damn Glory’!

In an age where the genre with more emphasis on plot than any other is being simplified and exaggerated for Hollywood’s perception of what human brains are capable of (zilch), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a rare treat in which the actors, the writer and the director hold the intelligence of their audience with the utmost respect. If a smart, detailed, emotional film doesn’t interest you, there’s always this:

Gary Oldman Fact #5: Gary Oldman is also an anagram of ‘Gaylord man’.

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2 Responses to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: so good, the title doesn’t need commas

  1. Clive Wolsey says:

    Totally agree with you – such a refreshing and brilliantly acted film!

    Nice points on the connection between cinematography and themes – I hadn’t necessarily thought about it that way but you are bang on the money…

    So, will TTSS to stand alone? Or spawn sequels and prequels galore? I’m in the former camp, but I suppose it would depend how it was done. Your thoughts?

    • Tom says:

      It’s hard to tell, I don’t think the other books in the series have ever been adapted for the big or small screen, but I think if it’s success continues abroad then they’ll no doubt get the Scandanavian film treatment!

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